Editorial, Opinion

EDITORIAL: The primary factor in Boston’s educational disparity is funding

While Boston holds great pride in its public education system, the inequality it thrives on is only becoming more clear. Adjustments in the state funding formula have led to wealthier districts receiving more money than lower-income areas.

It is evident state governments are not exempt from improperly handling the distribution of money.

Funding is crucial for student and teacher access to resources and materials, without which the education system is not productive and continues to divide students along socioeconomic lines.

Public school funding in Massachusetts uses a formula that takes into account the ideal number of students in a classroom — although, class sizes are often much larger in lower-income areas. The state then determines the amount of funding needed per student and how much a district can receive from its local taxes, then covers the difference.

As a result, higher-earning areas can typically fund a large portion of their own budget while low-income areas face many shortfalls — access to funds is based primarily on the wealth of the school’s local community.

If certain schools are already self-sufficient, do they truly need government assistance? While the extra money can go toward comparatively underfunded departments within those schools such as arts programs, that still means valuable resources will be directed away from low-income areas.

When the question of funding comes down to whether a wealthy school should put on more plays or a low-income school should have enough teachers for all of its students, the answer should be clear. Funding needs to be curbed for schools that no longer need it.

Boston has been attempting to solve inequality within its schools for several decades with the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity program. Although this program is a valiant attempt at desegregation, it is not working.

Schools in Boston and surrounding suburbs are highly segregated, and there are 8,000 children on METCO’s waitlist.

What the school system fails to recognize is that simply bussing these children to a better district does not mean they have access to resources outside of the classroom. They are still not receiving an “equal education” by any means.

In addition to clear racial segregation, students are divided from a young age based on their intellectual ability. This is not a healthy or positive way to conduct education.

Of course, it makes sense that some students may be more academically advanced than their classmates and should be challenged further to better benefit from their education. But this natural variation shouldn’t be so encouraged as to turn into a competition of who is more mentally developed.

Tracking systems should be set up in a more innovative way that doesn’t pummel the mental health and confidence of an 8-year-old. Children in elementary school shouldn’t already be subject to the stress of suddenly being placed in a lower-level class that shifts the trajectory of their primary and secondary school career.

We allow a school environment that makes students believe that if they get a B in a third grade math class, they will never be successful. No one’s mental capacity is fully developed at such a young age, yet society is eager to determine your life trajectory from the minute you step into kindergarten.

Some classmates are categorized as gifted and talented while the rest are just regular. The “smarter” students are placed in other rooms because they are far too advanced for the regular class material. Making such a distinction is detrimental in more than one way.

Students who are classified as GT are effectively taught from a young age that their mental skill alone will carry them — there’s no need to work. Looking at the programs themselves, it is difficult to determine how much more effective their curriculums really are.

Sure, these students get to stimulate their brains in a unique way, but they aren’t learning the same vital information as their peers. They receive a rude awakening in high school and college once they realize that they must work to earn success and recognition.

Indeed, these distinctions between intellectual capability may be necessary to make sure no one falls behind and no one is held back. However, the middle ground where all students’ needs can be catered to is often not found because teachers are so worried about their students’ grades reflecting on their own teaching.

Massachusetts is regarded as one of the “smartest” states in the country because of its test scores. Standardized tests are viewed as the golden standard of intellectual success, and it’s a toxic way to raise young generations.

Testing is meant to measure one’s retainment of knowledge, but standardized tests are often based solely on strategy and skill. When high school students go to SAT or ACT preparation and tutoring sessions, they are not taught just the subject material — because that’s not enough. They are taught best strategies to navigate the test-taking process and choose the best choice based on compilations of patterns.

The students who are able to perform well on these tests oftentimes do so because they have access to resources that help them better prepare. There are so many layers to education equality, and funding influences nearly all of them.

Standardized testing could potentially be a positive thing for low-income areas because they might determine where the problem areas lie. However, these communities cannot move toward solutions if their schools can’t even afford new, up-to-date textbooks for all students.

Teachers are then further burdened with the mounting pressure to perform well on tests, while not having enough resources in the classroom. Instructors have been known to pay out-of-pocket for classroom materials when that should not be their responsibility.

As children and young adults go through the American education system, they are put on a conveyor belt. There is no way to individualize education in such a populous country, so students must simply make the best of whatever situation they land into.

To finally look beyond outdated, industrial-age models of schooling, we must recognize the faults of our funding processes and the American education system as a whole. We must divert our focus away from scores and numbers, and start zoning in on closing the achievement gaps between wealthy and poor. That’s the way forward to a truly better-educated society.

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