Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Nearly two years ago, the Department of Education created a commission of experts to:
provide advice to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Education on the disparities in meaningful educational opportunities that give rise to the achievement gap, with a focus on systems of finance, and to recommend ways in which federal policies could address such disparities. The findings and recommendations of the commission do not represent the views of the department, and this document does not represent information approved or disseminated by the Department of Education.
The Commission released its report this spring and described its proposed strategy for reform as follows:
• First, we begin with a restructuring of the finance systems that
underlie every decision about schools, focusing on equitable resources
and their cost-effective use.
• Second, we examine the most critical resource of all: quality teachers and school leaders, the supports they need to be effective with all learners and ways to make sure all students have access to high-quality instructional opportunities.
• Third, we explain the importance of starting early—making the case for high-quality early learning for all children, especially for low-income children, who need it most.
• Fourth, there is the matter of providing critical support—including increased parental engagement, access to health and social services, extended instructional time and assistance for at-risk groups—that students in high-poverty communities need to start strong and stay on track.
• And fifth, we lay out the changes in accountability and governance necessary to ensure that, a decade from now, there doesn’t need to be yet another commission appointed to call public attention to the corrosive effects on the nation’s children and our future of the failure to advance equity and excellence in America’s public schools.
These points recognize the problem of concentrated poverty, but the solutions focus exclusively on addressing the problem in place through money, programs, and the lack. Curiously missing is any mention of integration strategies. A few members of the Commission were interested in focusing more heavily on integration, but the fact that they lack significant support is a sad testiment to how far away from integration the conversation has moved.
The Leadership Conference Education Fund recently released a response report to the Commission. Integration was missing from its proposals as well. The absence in both reports of integration proposals is probably due to the Commission's core charge of addressing finance inequity, and a desire to not muddy the waters with other issues. While these practicalities are understandable, the assume that segregation and inequality can separated, which history and scholars tell us is false. As Jim Ryan most prominantly has argued, the achievement gap is caused by the intersection of school finance inequity and segregation, not finance inequity alone. Thus, solving finance inequity without touching segregation will not pay the dividends that policy makers expect.