Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Is American Education Broken? School Financing Is.

Look at banks.  If they need a new building or need new equipment for their staff, they get it.  Look at insurance companies.  Yes, those huge new, beautiful buildings.  Look at schools.  Even the fairly new one have trailers alongside the classrooms.  Some of the older ones have significant structural problems. 

I am a sub, so I see a lot of different schools.  One of the places I sub at is a fairly new school - with 3 double wide mobile classrooms outside of it.  Another of these fairly new schools has 2 double wide trailers and more classes per grade level than they can accommodate, even with classes of 32 and more.  But at least some of the classrooms in the newer schools are spacious. 

I also subbed in a new high school.  There were 40 kids in the AP Calc class I taught. 

Not so with many of the older school classrooms.  One classroom was so crowded that there was no way I could get to every child's desk.  Another classroom had kids sharing desks, because they couldn't fit any more in the room. 

These crowded classrooms are fire hazards.  The mobile classrooms have other problems - security as children go to special classes or the restroom without teacher accompaniment.

I am no expert on school finances, but I asked why all these new schools were built with too few classrooms, even the day they opened.  The teachers said that that was as much as the school board thought the public would support as a bond issue for building these much needed new schools.  They were probably correct and therein lies part of the problem.  Does your bank ask you if they should build a new branch facility?  Does your insurance company have to hold a public referendum to build a new headquarters? 

The way American schools are financed almost guarantees inequities.  Most schools are dependent on property taxes and voter approval.  So, school districts in wealthier areas almost by definition have more money to spend.  Of course, the buildings don't tell the whole story - just the beginning part of it. 

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