Public education is this huge one size fits all system. That is not true. Everyone has a unique mind and we all learn differently. Some people might learn through class rooms and notes but others might learn through interactive courses and field trips. I believe that schools shouldn’t be run by district people who aren’t even present in schools. They should be run by parents, students and teachers who know each and everyone’s strengths and weaknesses so that they are able to plan a more suitable way of learning for everyone.
Public Education Reform
Education is a basic human right, not a privilege and it should definitely not be taken for granted. The students are also individuals, not statistics and shouldn’t be treated as an unfortunate investment for the state and government. Lamentably, public education has been a “privilege”, and students have sadly been seen as statistics that need improvement in order for the government and state to consider public education as a worthy “investment.” The problems with public education did not just appear out of the blue. A lot of the problems today are due to root causes such as historical racism and the want of utter control and power from the early Americans. At that time, the primary focus of public schools was to establish social order and keep the vast number of immigrant children into common school settings. This has escalated into a deeper segregation of have’s and have-not’s in today’s society and has created the many problems in education that we face today.
The issues we wish to address with this reform are the three major issues that we have identified as the most oppressive and discriminatory. Those being suburban and urban inequities in education, misuse of school federal funding and the malicious school to prison pipeline. These are the biggest issues that are preventing students, especially those in urban areas, from succeeding in school and later on making a better life for themselves.Fixing the problems of public education is important to us because we have gone through years of public education and we have witnessed the injustices first hand. We have witnessed kids dreaming to become something important and slowly lose their dreams and turn to more dangerous alternatives. All because schools have not done a good job in feeding their ideas and enriching their knowledge so that they can succeed. Instead of public education being an opportunity for kids to thrive, it has become a failing system filled with oppression and segregation.
The first of these issues would be the suburban and urban inequities which have become extremely obvious through the years. It is no secret that neglected and under-resourced schools are setting their students up to fail. Unfortunately, those neglected and under-resourced schools are mostly in the urban areas. Since 1972 students from middle-income and especially low-income families, have higher dropout rates than those from high-income households. The average high school graduation rate in urban cities is 53%compared to the 71% in the suburbs.
This graph clearly displays the large graduation gaps in 2005 between the urban and suburban districts in major metropolitan areas. This is a major issue because people have to be highly skilled,highly trained,have good education or so forth in order for people to be able to get a decent job .This graph supports the reality that that is not being achieved in urban districts because of the major graduation gaps. The majority of the children in the urban districts did not graduate high school and are easier to control because they don’t meet the requirements (which in truth are restrictions) to qualify for a good job. So the mass amount of the urban children will most likely head down a path of destruction and crimes as adults. Even if the urban non-graduates don’t go down that path, they will probably find and accept almost any low-quality job that most upper-class people wouldn’t do, such as working in fast food restaurants or being a janitor. Meanwhile, the larger part of the people in the suburbs which are graduates, get better jobs and remain in a “higher class” than those people in the urban cities. This is when the inequities become really apparent but it is too late to do something about it.
Enough people have recognized the inequities and have tried to fix it by passing laws such as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001, an act authorizing government to give more funds to schools with low-income and disadvantaged children to close the education gaps. Such acts did not improve inequities but have actually made it worse, almost like a snowball effect. This brings us to our next important problem, the misuse of school federal funding. It is a misguided belief that suburban public schools get more federal funding than urban public schools. That is untrue. In fact, urban schools get more government aid whereas suburban schools benefit more from state and local aid. That is due to suburban communities having enough money to donate to their children’s education and the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act of 2001 making the government fund under-privileged schools. NCLB supports standard-based education reform based on the premises that establishing high standards for students can improve individual outcomes. Ergo, most of the federal funding is for districts and school interventions for kids who are struggling in English and Mathematics only. So schools have to cut programs such as art, music, dance, debate , journalism, poetry etc. because the federal funding goes to interventions and the state and local funds don’t cover extra curricular activities.
Sources: 2006 U.S. Budget, Historical Tables.
This graph shows that the federal investment in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act rose from under $2 billion in 1966 to $15 billion in 2000 and $25 billion in 2005
The graph above displays the rise in federal funding from 1966 to 2006, which again mostly went to English and Math interventions.This is not an ideal way to spend federal funding because it really is not helpful to most kids and more money won’t fix the problems. The high standards and boring interventions just add pressure to kids and will make them feel trapped. Students who feel trapped in schools who are not doing the basic job properly will be willing to embrace almost any alternative such as dropping out and committing crimes. Students will also begin to act up in class because if they don’t understand the lesson they get frustrated. So they release that frustration in either acting arrogant or being silly pretending they don’t care. This can potentially hurt not only their education but their classmates’ as well. Thus, school funding should be used in more productive ways that can actually help the students.
As a result the snowball effect continues. First the historical racism and prejudice cause present inequities in schools. Then the inequities cause a misuse o f school federal funding. Furthermore the misuse of federal funding causes misbehaviour which leads us to our third major problem, the infamous school to prison pipeline. As a response to the supposed irrational misbehaviour schools have let the prison system seep into our schools. This system funnels students who are classified as problem children through the prison pipeline. It directly and indirectly affects students, mostly targeting those of color, specifically African Americans. The school to prison pipeline directly affects through the zero tolerance policy and direct involvement of police. The zero tolerance policy removes the most students from schools sometimes for very small infractions. It does not influence positive behavior, on the contrary it intensifies poor behavior. Same goes to getting police involve in minor discipline incidents. It indirectly affects students by excluding students from the learning environment through suspension,expulsion, ineffective retention policies and high stakes testing requirements. Students who have been suspended are more likely to fall behind, be retained, drop out of school, commit a crime and be incarcerated as adults.
As expected, the school to prison pipeline is mostly effective in Urban public schools. In 2000 the African American students represented 17% of the national school population but accounted for 34% of suspensions. By 2003 the African American students represented 16% of the public school enrollment but they accounted for 45% of juvenile arrest.Even more recently, the high school dropout rate in Oakland reached 40% in 2010. It is also a known fact that 75% of American inmates are high school dropouts.
These astonishing numbers reveal that the school to prison pipeline is a massive problem because it is ruining the lives of the students without giving them a chance to actually succeed. This system hides behind harsh rules and policies just so that the people in power have an easy way to get rid of the “problem children” without ever putting an ounce of effort to try and offer support. It is a system of blind hatred that judges these students based on their low scores and statistics without even knowing who they really are. How do they expect these students to excel in school when they are constantly being targeted by an unfair system and are expected to fail. It is ignorant and it is making students more like slaves than actual students. The school to prison pipeline is making students more like slaves because if most of them are being funneled through the prison pipeline then that greatly decreases their chance of ever breaking the poverty cycle, keeping the minorities as minorities. That means that people of color below the poverty line will stay under the poverty line without any chance of moving upward in the present day social hierarchy because of a criminal record.
Surely there are many more problems with public education, but these three issues are the ones that heavily impact the students today and that we wish to reform. We have many solutions to these problems. One of the solutions is that there should be more interactive and hands on classes and/or projects like robot building in science . School shouldn’t be about sitting in classrooms for six hours copying notes and reading. More field trips should happen that relate to what we are learning such as going to planetarium for science, visiting historical landmarks in history, or going to talk to an author for English. Schools should also have extra curricular activities that students can choose such as a debate team, student run school newspaper, music etc. so students won’t be as bored in school and can have active participation. They should also provide classes in which students increase their knowledge of the issues going on around them so that they can better protect themselves.This can fix the misuse of school funding. It is also very important that schools eliminate the zero tolerance policies, suspensions, expulsions and the involvement of police in discipline incidents. Instead schools should offer support from guidance counselors and try to rehabilitate students. This is so that we can annihilate the effect of the school to prison pipeline in our schools. We should also try and fundraise for more school resources. Families don’t have to donate a lot of money, we just need enough families donating whatever they can. Speaking of families, schools should consult both students and families before making crucial decisions that affect them all. They need to start asking students what they want instead of having the adults making all the decisions. Moreover the state, and if possible the nation, should try and reduce the ethnic gap between urban and suburban schools by mixing some of the students. Some suburban kids go to schools in the urban and vice versa. Who knows maybe we can mix communities as well.
We know that reforming this issue is not going to be easy but we plan on using strategies that have been successful in movements such as the Civil Rights Movement and the United Farm Workers Movement. Just like in those movements we plan to use non-violent strategies such as boycotts, strikes and marches. Also we have realized that most reforms have succeeded because they put political pressure so we wish to do that as well. We plan to do strikes in front of the schools and hopefully get teachers involved. We are hoping that all schools participate and that each school can choose one day of the week in which they will strike. In addition, we also want to plan a strike in front of the school district until they finally let one of present our case. Furthermore, we can boycott expensive school supplies such as Five Star and Jansport backpacks. We also planned a march from the school district to a nearby prison with some students having their hands tied together representing the school to prison pipeline.We were planning to have one of us give speeches as well and write letters to politicians.
In order for us to be able to pull off our ideas we will need a strong following. To gain a strong following, we plan to use social media and advertising such as flyers to let others know about our reform proposal. With social media, we can create a facebook page with information about our reform, important dates of events and a list of ways that they can contribute to the cause. We can also create our own blog, website, twitter and other popular social networks that will allow us to spread the message. We can also create flyers and pass them out to people in the streets.Creating a film or taking photographs can help spread the word as well as other art forms such as painting murals in the city. Probably the hardest thing that we wish to do is to get the media to give a full coverage of our story. That is indeed hard but not impossible.
We have no certainty that our reform will be successful but we can hope that it will be. We think that it can be successful because we have many ideas and strategies on how to reform the problems with public education. We will know that we were successful when there are no more gaps in education, more students start to graduate, go to good colleges, and break their poverty cycles. Also when we see that youth has become more inspired and are determined to persevere in education. Most importantly, we know we have succeeded when there are more people in schools than in prison, gangs,poverty and when they grow to be adults and have become an important part in a better more just society. Hopefully our solution will empower students to excel in school and they will actually like school as opposed to thinking it is boring. We also wish that this will help our community by giving all children an equal chance at education and equal opportunities at a better life. We entrust our future in our children and in pursuance of a good future, they need a good education. Lets hope that they won’’t have to face the problems of school inequities, misuse of school federal funding and the school to prison pipeline.
 “A Brief History of Education in America”, unknown author, www.cblpi.org, 2009
 “Soaring Drop Out Rates in Oakland”, Crystallee Crain, www.ellabakercenter.org, 2010
 “Large Urban-Suburban Gap seen in Graduation Rates”, Sam Dillon, www.nytimes.com, 2009
 “10 Facts About K-12 Education Funding”, unknown author, www.ed.gov, 2006
 “Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline”, unknown author, www.naacpldf.org, 2004
 Facts About High School Dropout Rate, www.mattiecstewart.org (not an article)
 Graphic: School to Prison Pipeline,www.suspensionstories.com, 2012