What teachers want from ESEA reauthorization—part 3

We want: More emphasis on equitable school funding; rather than increased reliance on competitive grants. 

The need for more public and civic engagement on the front-end of education decisions is long overdue. It is ironic that while some deride poor parents for their seeming lack of concern over their children’s education, the policies which were supposed to ensure and encourage their involvement have been underfunded and unenforced.

As a parent and as an educator I have been among those effectively disenfranchised by local policies and maneuvers that meet the letter of the law, but clearly gut its intent. I wholeheartedly disagree with putting significant portions of the new federal dollars into competitive grants. As the report last year from civil rights groups on ESEA stated, “If education is a civil right, children in ‘winning’ states [or districts] should not be the only ones who have opportunity to learn in high quality environments.”

They correctly point out that such policies would roll us back to pre-civil rights days in many places. An analysis by EdTrust echoes what many teachers and parents of Title I schools have said for years, that “budgeting practices in school districts across the country are shortchanging [poor] children and undermining federal investment in high-poverty schools…(April 2010, EdTrust). Like many of my colleagues, I support the call for Common Opportunity Standards and the proposal for “independent audits of state and district education expenditures.”

Many of the schools we now label as “failing” are, in fact, quite successful—at doing what they were designed to do: Under-serve the children of Black and Hispanic communities. Yet even within these dysfunctional schools and systems, there are teachers and administrators who fight against the systemic inequity by helping these children overcome the odds to accomplish their potential and their dreams. How cruel it is that in addition to having to overcome the already existing inequalities facing them, our highest needs schools and districts must also compete with one another for pieces of federal aid.