A recent report from the Southern Education Foundation shows that nearly half of public school students in the country are from low-income families. The measure of “low-income” was taken from data that shows the percentage of children in school receiving free or reduced lunch. Seventeen states have a rate of over 50 percent low-income students, up from four states in 2000.
Many pundits will argue that, to improve public education, we must focus on the schools themselves. The solutions vary, some pouring more money into the schools, shifting budgets of curriculums, getting rid of tenure and labor unions for teachers in the formation of charter schools and heavily testing students across the country. After all, the United States is currently ranked 17th in education among the developed world.
A simple comparison of education systems worldwide, however, leaves out some very important factors. Finland, for instance, currently outranks the U.S. in education.
It is true that Finland’s education system, in terms of curriculum and philosophy, is different from that of the U.S. But comparing the U.S. to Finland is not a very controlled reasoning.
This is mainly due to the heterogeneous population of Finland, where there is a large absence of poverty and far less diversity than there is in America.
It is inequality that truly plagues public education in the U.S. A recent report by the National Center for Education Statistics found that states like Massachusetts and Vermont compete with some of the top education systems in the world. Conversely, public education in the District of Columbia and states across the Deep South are unable to keep up.
While schools across the nation cut gym and the arts from their curricula, this does nothing to address the root cause of underfunded education systems. It only helps schools temporarily remain afloat while simultaneously eliminating fields of study.
Correcting America’s public education problem requires a much more comprehensive approach. It is no coincidence that the states with the weakest public education system are also the poorest in the nation.
Addressing poverty and wealth inequality, both major issues in their own right, will work to improve students’ performance. It will also allow for more state funds to go to education.
Working on improving communities around public schools is integral to improving education. Simply pouring money into programs and getting rid of teacher unions may be a quick fix to our system.
While increasing funding is majorly important for many districts, there has to be a way to make regular budget increases sustainable. These solutions only work in the short term. When all is said and done, there is little effectual change.
The picture is much bigger than the budget and what goes on only inside the schools. Schools that fail usually do not have adequate parental involvement and are located in poorer neighborhoods.
If we continue to ignore community improvement and only focus our attention inside schools with temporary solutions, then we will continue to chase our problems in circles that are unsolved, and our public schools will continue failing our students.