3 Biggest Losses for K-12 Education in 2015

All in all, 2015 was a good year for K-12 education. However, for all the great wins we experienced, we also had some major losses. Let’s look back at just a few of these disappointments.

In 23 states, poor students see less school funding. Poverty makes it more difficult for children to succeed in school, and they come to school at a disadvantage. These students tend to have more needs than their middle-class and well-off peers. Children from poor families are behind their counterparts on nearly every measure of academic achievement.

In 23 states, state and local governments together spend less per student in the poorest districts than those that are more affluent, according to 2012 federal data reported in The Washington Post. The differences in funding are severe in some states. Pennsylvania spends 33 percent less on the poorest school districts per pupil than on the wealthiest. In Missouri, the difference is 17 percent.

Across the United States, states and localities on average spend 15 percent less per pupil in the poorest districts than in the most affluent, according to The Washington Post.

This news is troubling. We need to find ways to ensure that children from low-income families receive an excellent education and their fair share of federal assistance. Our country needs to work hard to find ways to help homeless students and those in poverty and provide resources such as after-school and summer programs to help our poorer students succeed.

In addition, if we want to narrow the education gap, we have to help our underprivileged students. Poverty doesn’t mean that students cannot succeed; they can.

However, poverty does place additional pressures on children and add some additional challenges. Funding is one big way we can help our students from poorer schools and give them a better chance at success.

The opportunity gap is widening in America. The economic status of the parents of today’s K-12 students determines the long-term economic quality of the children’s lives more today than in previous generations. Children living in poverty conditions today are more likely to stay in them throughout adulthood than in previous generations, according to new information from Robert Putnam, author of “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis,” which examines how kids experience inequality the most and the devastating long-term effects.

Putnam revealed to Mind/Shift that the opportunity gap is making it impossible for a third of kids to gain access to the right steps to achieve the American Dream. This “opportunity gap” is a result of many factors, including a lack of equality in resources and treatment of students in America’s school systems, starting as young as preschool.

I think that the only way to truly close the opportunity gap is in our K-12 education system. As a society, we cannot go into homes and change what takes place there, at least not on the mass scale that is needed. We can, however, educate our nation’s children and give them the tools to elevate their quality of life. Schools are certainly places where social services, like free and reduced-price lunch programs, are appropriate, but to really facilitate long-term change, we need to give students the educational tools to rise above issues like poverty as they grow. This is only possible with targeted programs in at-risk areas that take specific backgrounds and life situations into account and employ teachers who come from similar backgrounds so students have relatable role models.

2016 USDOE funding is $2 billion less than 2015. Congress went to work on education funding in 2015, and the results aren’t pretty. According to ThinkProgress.org, the Senate Appropriations Committee put forth a bill that included education funding for the next fiscal year. The funding level is about $2 billion less than it was in 2015, which means a potential loss of programs.

The Senate’s version wasn’t as bad as what the House came up with. The appropriations committee in the lower chamber wanted to slash $2.8 billion from the Department of Education.

What’s at stake is the department’s research ability. Think Progress’s article stated that the department “would lose 80 percent of its research budget and all funding for preschool development grants, School Improvement Grants, and the Advanced Placement Test Fee program, which allows low-income high school students to afford tests that provide them with college credits.”

That’s fairly significant.

In December of last year, the department awarded the preschool development grant to 18 states. That totaled almost $300 million that went towards allowing more kids access to preschool programs. If the House and Senate continue cutting the grant, this will hurt thousands of children nationwide.

When we see politicians making drastic and harmful decisions like this, it shows just how empty politics can seem at times. Getting rid of the education department’s research budget and slashing preschool grants may save money, but it will hurt us in the long run.

Hopefully, both sides are able to compromise so that the cuts stop short of hurting kids who are about to start their education.

What were the biggest losses for K-12 education in 2015? What did I miss?

Click here to read all our posts concerning the Achievement Gap.

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