Increasing Funding to Improve America's Public Schools
In America today, many of the inner-city public schools are failing to produce literate graduates (Kozol, 58). These children fail to meet the national standards and many drop out of high school. These schools are stuck in a cycle that seriously needs help. However, private schools are doing a better job. Private schools have higher academic standards and produce students who have learned more (Grimes, paragraph 2). Public schools should partially use private schools as a model.
Most public school districts in the United States are not required "to produce public records of educational achievement by school and grade (Witte, 3)." Due to the lack of information, the decision of the parents of where to send the children may be affected. Parents may think a public school is worse than it appears, and they may send their child to a private institution. More tests and studies must be done to inform parents to prevent children from being lost to private education. These tests and studies could also be used to locate the potential source of the problem.
Once public schools were seen as unifying the nation by teaching children a common language and preparing the children to enter the workforce. Over the years, American public schools have been in debate due to racial inequalities and as the practical value of the high school diploma decreased. Public schools in the United States of America are usually funded by the local, state, and federal government. The local government provides the funds for a public school to function. Local governments usually receive funding from the property tax of the residents living in the vicinity of the school (Kozol, 54). Teachers' salaries, books, and transportation are just some of the expenses involved in running a school. This means children that live in rich neighborhoods will receive more funding, while children in poor neighborhoods will receive less funding (Kozol, 55). Cities also have the problem of higher police expenditures and fire department costs which use up the "limited tax revenues." (Kozol, 55) This situation creates a large gap between rich schools and poor schools.
Lately, there has been a discussion of inner-city schools which are usually poor schools since they are found in slum areas. These schools produce a large number of children who have low literacy rates. On the other hand, rich public schools have more funding which helps improve the school since the schools are found in areas where the property is worth a lot (Kozol, 55). New books can be bought, higher teacher salaries, and an improved learning environment. Funding needs to be increased in poor public schools to improve education and help raise literacy rates. If this does not occur, then poor schools will continue on the same trend by producing students with low literacy rates and standards.
On the other end of the spectrum are private schools. Private schools receive funding from their students. The students pay a tuition for their education. Property taxes do not influence the funding of a school. Therefore, as long as private schools have students, they have money. Another positive side of private schools is there is less government interaction. Since the government does not allocate any monetary funds toward private schools, there are fewer restrictions and rules governing private schools (Ravitch, paragraph 12). Private institutions can design their own curricula, hire whomever they want, and implement their own rules to a certain extent (Ravitch, paragraph 12). Private schools have the ability to educate children by putting the money wherever it is necessary in the educational program. Usually, the parents of the students in private schools have a significant amount of money since they have the option of paying for private schools or sending their children to a public school. Private schools must keep up their standards to attract paying students. This is another reason why private schools have higher literacy rates and educational standards compared to some public schools. Private schools not only compete with public schools, but they also compete against other private schools to attract students.
The enrollment of private schools has risen over the past 25 years while the total population of high school students has fallen (Grimes, paragraph 1). The U.S. Center for Education Statistics states that nine percent of high school students attend private schools (Grimes, paragraph 1). If public education continues to slip in standards, then parents who can afford private education will send their children to these places. However, this leaves parents who cannot afford private education in poor public schools which have low standards. Middle and upper class children attending public schools are decreasing while the proportion of children from low-income families is increasing (Lieberman, 19). "The adults in low-income families are less active politically and have less influence" which means that reform in poor public schools is unlikely (Lieberman, 19). Also, the birth rates of middle-class women has fallen. In the past, these women fought to improve public schools for their children (Lieberman, 19). Another important factor is the drop in population of school children. Children of the age of "five to seventeen made up 24.4 percent of the population in 1975 but only 20.4 percent in 1988, and the percentage is expected to drop to about 16.2 by 2010 (Lieberman, 18)." This factor is important since if there are less children, then there are less parents acting as activists for public education.
There seems to be a perception that private schools provide a better education than public schools. Choice programs which allow certain students to enroll in private schools by using state or federal aid. These programs publicly fund private schools (McGroarty, paragraph 5). This means some talented students have a choice to attend a private school if the bureaucrats choose them. If these students attend the private schools, then that leaves many other students in the poorer public schools. These Choice programs will not solve the problem of schools that instruct poorly, since the students that are not chosen will be forced to remain at the poor public schools.
Public schools must have competition to improve education in poor neighborhoods. Public schools can be considered monopolistic since the public schools do not have to compete with each for students (Shanker, paragraph 3). In a monopoly, the quality of the goods or students is not great since there is not a rival competitor in the market. When there is no competition for a certain good, then people will not care about the quality since the good is a necessity. In this case, the necessity is an education. This means that public schools in poor areas still produce students with low literacy rates. If poor public schools were given an incentive to attract and compete for students, then public schools would improve the quality of their education. Monetary bonuses should be given to public schools as a reward for attracting students. The monetary bonuses could come from local, state, or federal aid. Instead of using the money on sending some children to private institutions, the money should be used to improve public education. Therefore, poor public schools would compete just as private schools do by attempting to attract students.
However, Martin Conroy feels that voucher plans only increase inequality between students (paragraph 12). Conroy also states the public education is getting better (paragraph 13). He uses many examples from other countries showing that privatizing education will not increase competition. In these countries, only middle and upper class families would be able to add contributions to private schools along with the vouchers. Poor families are unable to add contributions, and therefore the private institutions do not care about them. The government expected that the competition in the private sector would raise the standards of education, and therefore they did not improve the curriculum (Conroy, paragraph 11). Conroy also states that students should stay in public schools where their tests scores were higher than in the private sector (paragraph 12). Martin Conroy does not discuss creating competition between public schools, but he discusses the results of competition between the public and the private sector. Monetary bonuses given to public schools would have a totally different effect than giving private schools money to allow public school students to attend their institutions.
The results of giving public schools monetary bonuses would be tremendous. Many public schools would implement new innovative programs to lure students in. Once the students are brought in, the schools would receive the monetary bonus. With this money, the school could hire new teachers, bring in new technology, and continue to improve the school's environment. As time passed on, the public schools would compete with each other and the private schools. Some public schools would attract former private school students if the education program is impressive enough. Private school students would save the tuition money by going to a public school. Eventually the literacy rates should rise due to the improved educational environment. Each public school would then have a reputation to keep to attract students. Similar to private schooling, the competition should help raise the literacy rates.
The idea of "magnet" schools is a partial solution since the schools have a specific curriculum in an area of interest. These "magnet" schools can be found in every metropolitan district (Hakim, 5). Magnet schools help children at risk in the inner city by improving their education by providing an interesting curriculum. Magnet schools also pull more gifted students in the public system instead of losing some to private institutions.
The distinct advantage of private institutions over public institutions is government policies. The government has many more restrictions on public schools than private schools. For example, discipline and standards play a large role in education. Albert Shanker, President of the American Federation of Teachers, feels that public policies prevent public schools from order, discipline, and high standards (paragraph 11).
Private schools relatively have high standards to attract future students. If there are high standards, then each student will be checked to make sure he or she is meeting the minimum education requirements. However, in poor public schools, many children are just meeting the requirements, and schools are satisfied with passing students. Also, private schools can remove disruptive students out of the school. A private school student must then find another private school or enter the public school system. However, public education must deal with "problem" students which have no other alternatives. The American public school system must find a way to discipline children.
In conclusion, public schools must compete with each other in a similar way to private schools in order to improve education and to raise literacy rates. Once competition begins, curricula will improve and standards will rise. Monetary bonuses are needed for the incentive for schools to attract students. However, money is not a complete solution to poor schools failing in the United States. Parents must become involved in their children's education and discipline is needed to control the students. Public policies need to be altered to allow changes in the public school system.