One of the things that I’ve been trying to do better is to educated my students on school funding: where the money comes from, where the money goes, how some Oregon schools have more than others, etc. One of the best websites out there for information on school funding is the Open Books Project. If you’ve ever wondered if your tax dollars dedicated to school funding are going to the right place, if administrators are overpaid, or if schools are complaining about nothing (they’re not), this is a good place to get some of the facts. I always have students who are shocked that the budget isn’t as bloated or administration-heavy as they expected. In order to give some perspective on the article below, a little over $11,500 is spent per pupil, per year in the Portland Public School District. 43% of students in Portland Public Schools qualify for free or reduced lunch and are currently being counted in order that their schools receive additional anti-poverty funding.
In my night reading on local issues, I saw the recent article “Portland School Leaders Grapple with $6 Million Drop in Anti-Poverty Funding.” And I also did a little follow up research on what’s going on in Washington that has precipitated these cuts. As an Oregonian who keeps up to date on budget issues, I know that the state budget is strained right now, and I know that the national budget is also facing cuts. Some of this must be due to decreased revenue as a result of a depressed economy. But I do not support cutting anti-poverty funding because this funding helps support those in most need — kids below the poverty line who need additional services. These services include summer school and after school programming, free access to kindergarten, and tutors for struggling students, among other things.
According to all of the research, early intervention (here represented by kindergarten and pre-kindergarten programs) and out-of-school support (additional school hours and mentoring through summer and after school programs) are some of the easiest and best ways to insure academic success, individual well-being, and better outcomes for the community in areas with high percentages of poverty. If we want a stronger economy, shouldn’t we be educating all children so that they have the chance to work and/or go to college successfully and to contribute back to their families and neighborhoods?
To me, these cuts go hand-in-hand with the widening gap between the rich and the poor that has been increasingly reported in the media over the last few weeks/months. If we cut additional resources to the kids who need it most, we guarantee an inequitable education.
If these cuts happen, there will be an even greater need to head out into the community to fill some of the gaps. To all of my former students, look back here for upcoming information about programs that could use your volunteer time and expertise with kids!