By Keith Jacobs
As both an educator and a parent, my wish this holiday season centers around an essential building block for ramping up success for low-income and minority students – equitable funding for educational choice.
Funding is often the centerpiece in debates on the quality of the educational experience. What is missing from this debate are the implicit biases that negatively impact families who benefit from educational choice. These families are rarely, if ever, adequately represented in these discussions. What is also missing are basic facts about the degree to which choice options are funded.
Quality education has always been afforded to families who have influence and resources. But what if these resources were distributed equitably to ensure that ALL students had an opportunity to quality education that meets their individual needs? While this is not a novel concept, it is often overlooked by pundits who contend the only way to success is through traditional public education.
What is missing from this equation is that low-income and minority families are often neglected in the “traditional” educational experience. Instead, they are forced to adjust to mainstream norms while contending with poor health, inadequate housing, accelerated crime rates, single-parent families and even substance abuse. Imagine if these students all had access to high-performing charter schools (or other non-district schools of choice). Imagine if those schools received the same level of funding as their district counterparts.
For all kinds of reasons, more and more parents are electing for their children to attend schools of choice. More equitable funding will allow those schools to invest even more in innovative technology and quality professional development. It will allow them to attract and retain even more well-qualified teachers, and continue to build on their academic successes. The evidence with test scores and college enrollment suggests schools of choice are already getting better outcomes with fewer resources. Imagine what they can achieve with more equity in funding.
In a season when we look to help those in need, marvel at the innocence of youth and generally praise the decency of humanity, it is time to put our children above politics. I wish for equitable funding so every child, regardless of socioeconomic status, has an equal opportunity to be successful in the educational system that meets their individual needs. After all, this is the season of giving!
Keith Jacobs is manager of the Charter School Initiative for Step Up for Students.
COMING WEDNESDAY: Greg Dolan of Catholic Education Partners wishes for private school leaders to get more involved in policy and legislative advocacy for education choice.