The Power of Education

For generations, communities throughout the world have worked together to ensure the education of the incoming generation. This is because it works to the benefit of every party involved. Primarily, it grants every individual the opportunity to receive an education regardless of origin, or socio-economic status. But it also promotes growth, as a more educated population is more capable and knowledgeable, allowing them to better form solutions and come to rational conclusions.

An article on the history of education in America mentions that education has been supported federally since the Land Ordinance of 1785, before the drafting of the Constitution. The United States has always thought it was essential for citizens to be well-educated. In 1867, the Department of Education was created in order to help improve the school system.

There seems to be a consensus towards the desire to have an educated populace. Though we make a concerted effort to provide every American with access to education, there remain many weaknesses in our school systems. A major factor preventing all students from flourishing in school is a lack of money funneled into public education. We recognize the importance of providing quality education to every individual, yet we fail to prioritize its need for funds.

How Schools Are Funded

School funding comes from three sources, according to this article, and varies from district to district. On average, 9% comes from federal funds, 46% comes from the state, and 45% is funded locally. States have the liberty to choose how much they fund public schools, and it is up to each district to make up for what the state does not provide. The source of local funds comes from property taxes, and as a result, districts with lower incomes have less funding for their schools

Unequal Funding of Schools

This article explains the uneven funding of schools in Connecticut, where one school in a high-income neighborhood spends $6,000 a year more per student than another school in a low-income neighborhood. The school where students generally need more assistance has fewer guidance counselors and materials of poor quality. This article released by NPR shows how vastly different school funding is across the country. Because much of the funds must be provided locally, in many states there are some districts which will spend far more per student than the national average, while adjacent districts are well below average.

Nevertheless, this paper lays out the argument for keeping public schools funded at the local and state level. The benefit of having schools funded through property taxes is that there is less variation on revenue from these taxes than from income or sales tax. Many also advocate for keeping schools funded locally so that every community has more control over their own public schools. It is also argued that the federal government cannot tailor to every district’s needs and that this can better be achieved through control at the state level.

The mission of the Department of Education is “to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access”.  Clearly, however, equal access has not been ensured for millions of Americans.

Cuts to School Funding

Over recent years, public education has suffered budget cuts in many states. According to this article on the cuts public education has suffered, at least 31 states provided less funding in 2014 than before the great recession, and some states are still cutting funding. Over the same period, 18 of these states also experienced decreased funding locally.

Our state is part of those which has lost funding for public schools, describes this article. Over the last few years, North Carolina has provided tax cuts, and as a result has lost funds for public schools. North Carolina now spends over $600 less per student each year than it did in 2008. Meanwhile, our state ranks very low in education. One figure showing this is that we are 42nd for average teacher salary.

Reasons to Fund Education

Many schools experience budget cuts while the need for additional funds is overwhelming. This teacher experienced challenges providing her students with classroom supplies out of her own pocket, and explains that her school didn’t have enough books for students to take home. In addition, a lack of teachers has meant that classrooms are filled to sizes unfit for learning, not to mention the short staff of teachers not receiving a very large paycheck.

In addition to an increase in funds to public education, many advocate for free, universal higher education. A professor of education policy studies and sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison explains that financial aid is currently provided to too few students. When university students are so focused on working to finance their education, they cannot concentrate on their studies. As a result, those who aren’t discouraged by the cost of college don’t even benefit from it as much as they could.

Our public schools are in need of more financial support. According to an article by the Washington Post there is a $10,000 gap for money spent per student between the highest funded state and the lowest. I believe that in order to minimize this inequity, the federal government should increase its contribution to public education. It should also mandate that states contribute a higher minimum percentage of the funds schools receive. The federal government should also provide free higher education to students of any level of income in order to increase matriculation numbers and allow college students to concentrate more of their energy towards their education.

The education system should be made a higher priority. Providing individuals with a quality education is allowing them to have a better quality of life. In conjunction with having an educated citizenry comes having a well-functioning society. But we cannot expect children to thrive if we do not properly finance the training of teachers, and provide these teachers with a decent wage. We cannot hope for students to learn if schools are not provided the resources they need such as classroom materials, textbooks, and healthy meals. And we cannot claim to be making progress if we aren’t making the effort to ensure that everyone receives equal education.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” ~Nelson Mandela

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