Schools in the urban core do not have the necessary courses, facilities and services that help students cope with the effects of poverty. Let’s be clear: Schools that serve low-income students need more money, not less. You can’t cut your way toward academic improvement.
However, one governor tried.
In Philadelphia, as in urban districts across the country, the idea that money isn’t an issue simply doesn’t hold water. We know that well-resourced schools and well-heeled students perform better. Reardon’s study found that family income is now nearly as strong as parental education in predicting children’s achievement. The achievement gap between students from the wealthiest and poorest families is nearly twice as large as the achievement gap between black and white students, according to Reardon. Research has been clear on the positive impact of money on student success, particularly on standardized tests. The Shanker Institute found that “on average, aggregate measures of per-pupil spending are positively associated with improved or higher student outcomes.” Yet, as Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen recently pointed out, “The United States is one of the few advanced economies in which public education spending is often lower for students in lower-income households than for students in higher-income households.”
The impact on the district and the city of Corbett’s targeting cuts has been devastating. Dozens of schools have been closed. Thousands of teachers and school support staff were laid off. Art and music are scarce, as are nurses and guidance counselors. Classrooms are overcrowded. Teachers are digging deep into their own pockets to buy everything from copy paper to toilet paper for their schools and classrooms.
To add insult to injury, this month, Corbett’s School Reform Commission – the group that oversees Philadelphia schools, which have been state-run for more than a decade – tried to cancel the teachers’ contract unilaterally. The governing panel demanded that all teachers contribute to their health insurance, a contribution similar to what the union had offered as a concession in contract negotiations 14 months ago, but the SRC said wasn’t enough. (A judge has since barred this change and the district has appealed her ruling.) Corbett has said this attempted change would be in the “best interest of the students.” But that’s not what this is really about. Corbett says money the district saved would be used to hire new teachers and staff, but he’s simply shifting the burden of his budget cuts from the state to teachers. He’s blaming educators for the financial crisis he created. We know this because of a secret poll commissioned for Corbett’s reelection that advised him to hinge his campaign on attacking the teachers and their union. So, we’re not surprised that this stunt came just weeks before Election Day.
We have heard similar “it’s all about the kids” rhetoric from governors like Sam Brownback in Kansas, Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Rick Scott in Florida. But like Corbett, they all have cut education funding drastically, and kids in those states have suffered as a result. On Nov. 4, don’t vote for rhetoric. Vote for full and fair funding of our schools.