Poverty, seg­re­ga­tion per­sist in US mi­nor­ity schools, re­port says

South Florida Times - - FRONT PAGE - By MARIA DANILOVA

WASH­ING­TON - Too of­ten, low-in­come, black and Latino stu­dents end up in schools with crum­bling walls, old text­books and un­qual­i­fied teach­ers, ac­cord­ing to a re­port re­leased Thurs­day by the U.S. Com­mis­sion on Civil Rights.

The com­mis­sion said in­equities are caused by the fact that schools are most funded with state and lo­cal tax dol­lars. More than 92 per­cent of fund­ing comes from non­fed­eral sources, ac­cord­ing to the Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment.

The re­sult­ing im­bal­ance ren­ders “the ed­u­ca­tion avail­able to mil­lions of Amer­i­can pub­lic school stu­dents pro­foundly un­equal,” the com­mis­sion said.

For in­stance, the au­thors said, 33 per­cent of high schools with high black and Latino en­roll­ment of­fer cal­cu­lus, com­pared with 56 per­cent of high schools with low black and Latino stu­dent pop­u­la­tions. Na­tion­wide, 48 per­cent of schools of­fer the rig­or­ous math course.

On av­er­age, school dis­tricts spend around $11,000 per stu­dent each year, but the high­est-poverty dis­tricts re­ceive an av­er­age of $1,200 less per child than the least-poor dis­tricts, while dis­tricts serv­ing the largest num­bers of mi­nor­ity stu­dents get about $2,000 less than those serv­ing the fewest stu­dents of color, ac­cord­ing the study.

The au­thors called on Congress to cre­ate in­cen­tives for states to adopt eq­ui­table fund­ing sys­tems, to en­sure ad­e­quate fund­ing for stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties and to in­crease fed­eral fund­ing to sup­ple­ment lo­cal dol­lars for school dis­tricts that are un­der­funded.

“The real­ity is that the United States does not of­fer the ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­nity that is con­sis­tent with our ideals,'' com­mis­sion chair Cather­ine Lha­mon told the AP. “That's ap­palling and it's danger­ous and all of us need for it to change.”

Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment spokes­woman Liz Hill said the com­mis­sion's find­ings un­der­score the need for re­form. Pro­mot­ing char­ter schools, voucher pro­grams and other forms of school choice are key goals of Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Betsy DeVos.

“This is fur­ther proof that too many chil­dren, sim­ply be­cause of where they live, are forced to at­tend schools that do not pro­vide an eq­ui­table ed­u­ca­tion,” Hill said in a state­ment. “Sec­re­tary DeVos has made clear her mis­sion is to en­sure ev­ery child has the op­por­tu­nity to at­tend a school that of­fers an ex­cel­lent ed­u­ca­tion that meets their in­di­vid­ual needs.”

Whether chan­nel­ing more money to schools in un­der­served com­mu­ni­ties will help im­prove the qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion is a sub­ject of aca­demic de­bate.

“Money mat­ters. If you don't have it, you can­not spend it,'' said Bruce Baker, a pro­fes­sor of ed­u­ca­tion at Rut­gers University. Baker said that states should do a bet­ter job in rais­ing ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing and in equal­iz­ing spend­ing among school dis­tricts. He also called for a greater fed­eral role in mak­ing sure that less af­flu­ent states that need ad­di­tional ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing get it.

“Hav­ing fed­eral money can help states that can­not help them­selves and fed­eral pres­sure can en­cour­age states to do the right thing, to raise enough re­sources and put them where they are needed.”

But Eric Hanushek, a fel­low at the Hoover In­sti­tu­tion of Stan­ford University, dis­agrees.

“Money is not the se­cret recipe,” Hanushek said. “How much is spent on schools is not as im­por­tant as how the money is spent.” For in­stance, he said, sim­ply in­creas­ing the salaries of all teach­ers in a high-need school district won't have as much of an im­pact as iden­ti­fy­ing high-per­form­ing teach­ers and in­creas­ing their salaries.

PHOTO COURTESY OF FLAG FAM­ILY LAW

U.S. Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Betsy Devos

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