Schools – important pillar of our democracy – must be funded differently than they are now. As things stand, schools in towns ten miles apart here in Mid-coast Maine – let alone thousands of miles apart when considering the US as a whole – are markedly inequitable in terms of programming, structure, and staffing. How can we ask our students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance each morning – with liberty and justice for all – in the face of such inequity?
Where is the justice when a talented student in one school has the choice of participating in many AP courses, special classes for the academically gifted and talented, elaborate drama productions in a well-appointed auditorium, while a talented student in a different school has none of those opportunities? Should one high school really have a state of the art visual arts studio while a second high school does not? Should teachers in a wealthier district attend workshops at noted schools of education while the professional development budget in a second district cannot cover similar training? Should administrators and teachers in one district really be paid less than those in another simply because the land values in one district are less? The inequities between schools in the United States multiply the more you look and these inequities are unjust.
Pasi Sahlberg, noted Finnish educator and writer, shares this about Finland’s internationally recognized system of education: Finnish schools are funded based on a formula guaranteeing equal allocation of resources to each school regardless of location or wealth of its community.
Following the publication of Finnish Lessons – Sahlberg’s book about education in Finland – many Americans have looked to Finland for programs we can copy in the reforming of our system. Yet Sahlberg cautions that until the United States has created a system based on equity it will not work to simply lift ideas piecemeal from other nations. Our schools will not reach international standards of excellence until we shift the formula for funding our schools to one based on equity.
All of our children deserve a quality education designed to enable them to achieve their dreams if they work hard. We all know it’s difficult enough to make a go of it in life even when the odds are somewhat stacked in our favor. The odds should not be stacked against us. Educational resources should be distributed equitably. It is the job of government to see that this is done.