American public schools are failing our children, as many
people agree, but they are failing some of our children much worse, just
look at students’ reading abilities. In 2013, according to a report on the
U.S. Department of Education website (“National Assessment of
Education Progress”), among all of the fourth grade students currently
attending American public schools, only 35 percent of them performed
at or above the proficient achievement level in reading, meaning that 65
percent of these students rank as not proficient in reading. Reading
proficiency is even worse among low-income students, however. In
2013, 80 percent of fourth graders from low-income backgrounds could
not read at grade level. Nationwide, about 21 percent of school-aged
children live in poverty, which is about one in every five students.
Children from low-income backgrounds are already at a
disadvantage in terms of projected scholastic success because they are
typically less prepared to start school than their more affluent peers, and
it is clear that poverty and family background play an influential role in
children’s educational success, but some of this has to do with an
inequality of funding among public schools. Public schools each receive
a different amount of monetary funding from the government, and
high-poverty schools often are highly influenced by intrastate funding
disparities, which occur because local governments and school districts
rely on property taxes to fund schools. Therefore, there can be a large
discrepancy in the amount of funding a school receives based on the
wealth of the area where it is located. Higher property taxes means more
money for educational funding, which benefits only certain schools. In
her book The Hollywood Curriculum: Teachers in the Movies, Mary M. Dalton
says “Poor zip codes have less money allocated to schools, which
languish in disrepair, while wealthy areas have public schools with
resources that rival private schools” (155). This financial inequity is
especially detrimental to high-poverty schools that serve largely under-
resourced student populations because students from low-income
backgrounds are typically already at a disadvantage in terms of projected
scholastic success.
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