Letter: How To Address Student Disparities?

Letter: How To Address Student Disparities?

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

Voters should understand the inequities in our schools and what each candidate proposes to end these problems.

Differing views about perceived chronic school issues exist (put simply, poorer, underserved students need society's help to compete versus poor parents are sending unprepared students that drain public resources and damage the community) because how the issue is defined determines a strategy.

All parents want what is best for their children. Some parents — and states, and school districts — have greater means to provide educational resources.

In 2013, the average per-student expenditure for public K-12 schools in the U.S. was $10,938. States varied in per-student funding, from $19,752 in Vermont to $6,949 in Arizona. Disparities exist within states, between wealthy suburban school districts and poorer urban and rural school districts.

Affluent students in well-off school districts have higher rates of high school graduation, college attendance and entry to more selective colleges. For example, 82 percent of affluent students who had SAT scores over 1200 graduate from college. In contrast, only 44 percent of low-income students with the same high SAT scores graduate from college. This gap can't be explained by differences in intelligence and ability.

Affluent parents provide their children with educational advantages, such as first-class pre-kindergarten classes, private SAT preparation classes, and private after-school, weekend and summer enrichment programs (such as summer camp, dance and music lessons, travel league sports, and vacations abroad). Students from communities with low-income and working-class students aren't so lucky. Their parents don't have the income to pay for the advantages given to their wealthier peers.

Such factors mock the idea of "equal opportunity" in public education.

All students deserve an equal chance to fulfill their potential and succeed in society. Political leaders must address two inequities. Raise the overall level of per-student funding and increase supplemental funding for the neediest students and schools. Equal educational opportunity is spending more on schools serving significant numbers of low-income students.

Segregation inequality practices in public education were not officially ended until the 1970s when the state government's attempts to resist desegregation ended.

Inequalities in many of our schools persist. The Emancipation Proclamation was law in 1863 but it was the 1960s before full citizenship rights to people of color were finally won. Inequality in educational funding for schools with large populations of poor and working class students remains.

How do our candidates running for public office plan to end such inequities impacting our youth?

Martin Tillett

Mount Vernon