Monday, July 20, 2015

'These Kids Are Just Pawns': The Rising Toll of Inequitable School Funding - NEA Today

'These Kids Are Just Pawns': The Rising Toll of Inequitable School Funding - NEA Today:

'These Kids Are Just Pawns': The Rising Toll of Inequitable School Funding

This article is the first in a NEA Today series that explores obstacles to education that create an opportunity gap for disadvantaged students. With the number of children living in low-income families reaching record highs, these issues are affecting more communities across America and the public schools that serve them.
In a kindergarten classroom at Riverside Elementary School in Reading, Pa., one of the 5-year-olds seated cross-legged on the rug is so eager to be called on it looks as if his arm is being pulled from above. His teacher, Lori Sherman, has just read them a book about the rainforest and asked if anyone remembers the word for the characteristic that allows animals to blend into their surroundings.
Finally, his name is called.
“Mosiah?” “Camouflage!” he says through a smile.
In a trailer at nearby 12th and Marion Elementary School, a fourth grader who knows the difference between prime and composite numbers nearly topples her chair backwards in her enthusiastic bid to give the answer.
Happy moments like these occur every day in U.S. public schools. But they are even more heartening when witnessed against the bleak backdrop of Reading, where students and educators confront barriers to learning every day—some exacerbated by the gross underfunding of their schools, others the result of it.
Reading is one of the nation’s poorest cities. It’s also one of the most poorly funded school districts in America. Like students in disadvantaged communities across the nation—who are disproportionately students of color—kids in Reading suffer from a school finance policy that does not come close to providing them with education resources on par with those of their wealthier peers.
Tour Reading’s 19 schools and you’ll see mostly aging buildings with broken floor tiles, leaky ceilings sprouting patches of mold, students crammed into too-small classrooms, and feral cats squatting under classroom trailers. One high school has a room full of broken microscopes, and no money to repair them. One large-group instruction room is completely off limits after a broken pipe left it spattered with sewage. The drama teacher now conducts class in the hallway.
But even more detrimental is what you don’t see.
Reading School District lost 200 educators, including 120 education support professionals in 2011 – 2012 when statewide education funding plummeted by $1.1 billion under then-Gov. Tom Corbett. Incredibly, the cuts were four times greater in Pennsylvania’s 50 poorest districts ($532 per student) than in the state’s wealthiest districts ($113 per student).
In practical terms, those cuts left Riverside Elementary’s Ms. Sherman with a class of more than 30 kinder- garteners and no aide. Many of her colleagues also saw their class sizes balloon, reducing precious one-on-one time that is essential for disadvantaged children.
school_funding_crisis_pennsylvaniaMosiah doesn’t have art, gym, or music and there is only one 15-minute recess that is largely spent getting outside and lining up to go back in. There’s no longer a separate kindergarten class focused on meeting special needs among his 'These Kids Are Just Pawns': The Rising Toll of Inequitable School Funding - NEA Today: