School Finance Reform
School Finance Reform
IN A WEALTHY NORTHEASTERN STATE, two schools are near each other geographically but far apart in every other way. The school in the city sits beside an abandoned lot in a community that has lost most of its industrial jobs. “The physical appearance of the school is bleak, depressing. The hall is dark and dingy. . . . The playground outside is all brown wood and it is completely surrounded by hard pavement.” The library has not been used for 13 years; even the faculty bathrooms have no toilet paper or soap. The gym leaks. There is one computer for every 35 students, and none of the classrooms is wired for the Internet. The principal has trouble attracting qualified teachers in many fields and has none trained in computer instruction; according to the scholar who looked at these schools, teachers mainly use the computers to keep the students busy playing games when they have completed their worksheets. In this school 98 percent of the students are non-Anglo, more than two-thirds are eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches, almost three in ten are in special education. The residents of the district have a per capita income of $17,000 a year. In the suburb nearby, the school is “housed in a modern building and surrounded by large, well-maintained athletic fields. [It] boasts such amenities as a spacious school library furnished with rows upon rows of book stacks, and a high-ceilinged auditorium with theater-style seating and a grand piano on stage. Not only does the school have computers in every classroom, it also has a fully equipped computer lab, staffed by an instructor.” There is one computer for every four students, all wired for Internet use. Teachers have aides as well as access to “resource teachers” who specialize in various academic fields, help with curricula, and give “guest lectures” in classrooms. Most students participate in the orchestra, chorus, or specialized bands (or perhaps all three). One fourth-grade teacher, a graduate of Vassar College, was chosen over more than 200 competitors for her job, and along with the others in the school is paid considerably more than the state average. In this school 95 percent of the students are Anglo, fewer than one percent are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, and only 5 percent are in special education. Residents of the district have a per capita income of $70,000.
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