Jonathan Kozol in an interview in BuildBetterSchools brings up a few controversial aspects of Charter Schools and public education at large. According to him, inequalities are now greater than twenty years ago. Addressing this issue, he remarks that “Some states have equalized per-pupil spending but they set the “equal level” very low, so that wealthy districts simply raise extra money privately. And, even within a single urban district, parents in rich neighborhoods cluster together at a single school, then hold fund-raisers for that school, using celebrities to pull out a wealthy crowd, and raise as much as half-a-million dollars in a single night. No one forces them to share this money with the schools for poor kids that might be just three blocks away. The system is more savage now than ever.” (Italics mine)
Working Toward Civic Coherence?
This paragraph synthesizes many of the issues we have discussed this term. It is significant that Kozol suggests money raised in one school in a given district should be forcedly distributed to schools in the same district. I find this problematic because it works against the efficiency of a system already inefficient. First of all, schools in less wealthy districts which are unable to raise funds are still going to be disadvantaged from the equalized per-pupil spending in the state, because no school in the district could raise half a million dollars to be distributed. Second, instead of looking at the problem from the point of view of “the rich vs. the poor” (which a lot of people find appealing), why not frame the
question towards upholding civic coherence? That the rich ought to raise funds for a public service is in itself a problem, and not an advantage. As long as public services operate on this basis, and public debate functions along these lines, the problem of equity, which lies at the core of our ideas of citizenship and civility, will remain in the dark.
Charter Schools seem to further the problem, insofar as they are designed and marketed for specific audiences. The exclusivity-funded by public resources in Charter schools is clearly problematic in nature, no matter what results it brings (probably one of the few things a civil rights activist and I would agree with!), and it seems unlikely that anyone serious would ignore it. The public ought in my view to decry the furthering of segregation funded by public resources, because it is immoral and should make both rich and poor ashamed of this country. But to accuse people who could afford a private education for their children if they wanted to, like Kozol seems to do, sound like mere resentment and envy, when he
could have simply targeted how low the “equal level” is, which really is the issue here.
Questions for You
I would like to ask you guys: what do you think about Kozol’s positions in the interview and, moreover, about the idea behind Charter Schools, given the current scenario of public education, in which funds are allocated differently per district instead of being pooled and distributed on a per-student basis?