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As I've been proselytizing here and everywhere about Jonathan Kozol's book, Savage Inequalities, I will rely on the text from the book to support my arguments.  As was pointed out, the book was written 20 years ago.  Sadly not much has changed for children in urban areas across the country.  I am so grateful that I was finishing high school when the author was conducting his research.  The district where I completed my high school education is immeasurably worse now.  

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The question was raised, does money make a difference?  Yes, there are diminishing returns, I believe in Education such that spending 20K per student in a district that currently spends 16K won't make much difference.  But what would that 16K do for a district that currently spends 8K?

Kozol addresses this point right here:

"In any case," they sometimes add in a refrain that we have heard many times, "there's no real evidence that spending money makes much difference in the outcome of a child's education.  We have it.  So we spend it.  But it's probably a secondary matter.  Other factors - family and background - seem to be a great deal more important."

In these ways they fend off dangers of disturbing introspection: and this in turn, enables them to give their children something far more precious than the simple gift of pedagogic privilege.  They give them uncontaminated satisfaction for their victories.  Their children learn to shut from the mind the possibility that they are winners in an unfair race, and they seldom let themselves lose sleep about the losers....But the larger numbers of these favored children live with a remarkable experience of ethical exemption.

So at a bare minimum, I believe that more equitable funding would make a difference.  No one ever tells high spending districts that they spend too much.  This argument is only thrown at low-income districts where the argument is made...what difference will it make?  The underpinnings of this argument suggest that no amount of money would make a difference for the children that live in low-income neighborhoods.  Despite the fact, that Montgomery County, MD had disproved this belief by employing an economic integration model in their schools, the result, children living in the same subsidized housing, have disparate achievement based on whether they attend school in a high-poverty or low-poverty (advantaged) school.  

There was a court case in New Jersey, where parents in low-income school districts sued the state due to unequal funding.  The Judge found for the Plaintiffs but this was a little too late for the children and their families who were parties to the suit, as the decision didn't come down for seven years.  A superintendent of a wealthy school was asked...

The court asks the superintendent of affluent South Brunswick to assess the impact on his district, were it to be funded at the level of low-income Trenton.  The superintendent tells the court that such a cut would be an "absolute disaster."  He says that he "would quit" before he would accept it.  If such a cut were made, he says, class size would increase about 17%; nursing, custodial and other staff would be reduced; the district would stop purchasing computers and new software; it would be unable to paint the high school, would cut back sports, drop Latin and German, and reduce supplies to every school.  "We would have a school district," he says, "that is as mediocre as some that exist, that don't have the money enough to spend for some of the things I just eliminated.  And our kids would....get shortchanged, as these kids in these cities are getting shortchanged.  And I'm convinced that they're shortchanged."
Although the defendants ultimately lost the case, they spent a hefty amount of money to fight the Plaintiffs, poor parents seeking an opportunity for their kids.  One advocate noted, and I'm paraphrasing, the irony that so much money was spent on the case, to prove that money wasn't important.  Ironic, indeed.  

From the same court case, the Defendants argued that the low-income districts had to prove that they were using their money efficiently before the State of New Jersey should provide equal funds.  This is what the Judge had to say...

Defendants also argue, says the court, that, until the urban districts show they can "wisely use the vast sums they now receive, no additional funds should be provided."  No testimony....has been provided to affirm "that high-spending districts are spending wisely."....If money is inadequate to improve education, the residents of poor districts should at least have an equal opportunity to be disappointed by its {money's} failure.  
The Judge's 607 page ruling was upheld upon Appellate review.  This kicked up a huge protest among suburban parents across the state.  I won't repeat their arguments here but I would urge you to visit/re-visit Savage Inequalities to read Kozol's take on the arguments of Liberty versus Equity.  Very interesting take on it and how Liberty is juxtaposed against Equity in this society to disastrous effects for low-income people.

Finally, I will leave with this text.

We are children only once...there are no second chances to make amends.  In this respect, the finality of unequal education has a terrible finality.  Those who are denied cannot be "made whole" by a later government act.  Those who get the unfair advantage cannot be later stripped of what they've won...The winners in this race feel meritorious.  Since they also are, in large part, those who govern the discussion of this issue, they are not disposed to cast a cloud upon the means of their ascent.  People like Elizabeth are left disarmed.  Their only argument is justice.  But justice, poorly argued, is no match for the acquired ingenuity of the successful.  The fruits of inequality, in this respect, are self-confirming.
You see, the system is rigged.  But instead of naming it for what it is, many default to arguments of "parental involvement" and "values."  Their success is proof ipso facto that their parents did the right thing and they embody the right values.  This completely ignores reality on several levels.  It ignores uninvolved parents in wealthy districts and there are plenty!  It ignores the involved parents in low-income districts and there are plenty!  It conflates many issues which have more to do with resources than parental involvement and it frames the issue such as to absolve the larger society from actually having to address systemic issues.

So I know it is very easy to believe the common wisdom because it has been an ongoing campaign, just as the demonizing of liberals and Progressives has been an ongoing campaign.  Many of us have been under attack.  We are Liberals,  Progressives and Democrats and we should not believe that any child, no matter their zip code is expendable or dispensable.

One note, in Camden, a library was demolished to build a prison.  Our mindset not only leads too many children to failure but tacitly supports  the Prison Industrial Complex.  That's for another diary one day...

Originally posted at the Motley Moose

Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to princss6 on Tue Feb 22, 2011 at 08:25 AM PST.

Also republished by White Privilege Working Group.

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