Equity is a principle of the American system of government and the cornerstone of educational opportunity. Equity is not synonymous to equality-equality means treating everyone the same.
Inequalities in Financing Education
Education should be financed and operated equitably, however this should not be done with complete equity because different students have different needs and abilities. Providing equal dollar inputs for unequal students produces unequal results. If education is to facilitate the movement of the poor and disadvantaged into the mainstream of American social and economic life, then equal facilities, teaching skills and curriculums are not the answers. More resources should be made for students with disabilities who enter and pass through the educational system.
Equity Issue Revisited
The issue of equity that fomented the revolution in state spending on public schools in the 1970s resurfaced in the 190s. In 2010, 44 out of 50 states were involved in litigations about some financial aspect of school funding. The disparities about per-pupil spending remain a concern. The Education Trust, a body concerned with equity issues among the poor and minorities described that solving the equity dilemma is not an easy task. It is suggested that if per-pupil funding vary by amount of 5 to 10, then equity is within acceptable limits. Other considers if the bottom of the funding is increased, the top spenders may also raise the funding levels leading to disparities between districts. Therefore, equity in the support of the educational funding does not lead to equal learning.
Quality and Fiscal Equity
There have been different opinions about equity. Individuals who promote equity based on equality maintain that all districts should have equitable resources to reach quality. Those who support excellence consider districts that do better should be rewarded monetarily. Advocates for fiscal equity rely on compensatory measure, cost reimbursements, formula grants and incentives to support poor students and students with special needs. Therefore, schools need to provide equal opportunities for quality education.
Equity: An Objective of School Finance Reform
Each state has complete freedom in the manner in which it allocates funds to local school districts. Historically, the quality of education was seen as a means of providing schooling to all children, but today, equality of education is the amount of money for each pupil being educated. Today, it has been recognized that it costs more to educate some pupils than others. Among the changes was providing money for pupils who lived in rural areas and for students with physical and mental disabilities. However, this ground that deliver unequal amount of money is still under confrontation and litigation.
Equity for Children
Equity for children includes fairness in the amount of revenue and services [provided for children. Equity should include affair competition and lead to equal opportunities to attain school objectives and life chances. Presently, equity for children is measured by comparing expenditure per child. Even through horizontal equity (equal treatment of equals), there is still ramifications in trying to provide districts with equal amount of revenue for each child. Vertical equity (unequal treatment of unequals) complicates the fairness issue even further because it is difficult to determine vertical equity than horizontal equity.
The Weighted-Pupil Approach
To meet the challenge of vertical equity, the state needs to provide and recognize additional funding for students and districts with special needs in the finance formula. Pupil weightings are cost differentials injected in the formula to compensate for the additional cost of education of students due to their special needs or the type of the educational programs they peruse. This adds objectivity and equity to the school finance system.
Equity at the School Level
The call for fair and equitable funding across schools has increased in recent years. School districts should have school level funding reports that shows the expenditures in various maintenance and operation categories. Although the concern for equity at the individual school level is valid, a number of factors can influence or skew results include:
Teacher length of service
Special program funds
Historical Influence on Equity
During the early history, local district schools were not getting financial assistance from the state. The inequity in finance was due to the size and wealth variation of district schools. The taxable property base to be educated, per individual, differed in each region resulting to differences in property tax levies.
Local district funding
District funding has proven to be less efficient in producing equality in educational opportunity, and therefore local districts have to find financial support from state government. This is due to the increase in educational costs and competition for revenues.
Grants were used by the state to assist districts in financing the schools by delivering an equal amount of funds per pupil and teacher. They had no intention of providing equalization, but rather, a relief to local taxpayers.
Most states use equalizing grants to allocate state money to local districts. The grants are made according to the tax-raising ability of the districts. Other states use a combination of grants, with the aim of allotting a higher percentage of state funds on equalization basis.
Improving State Equalization Practices
States employed three essential conditions to achieve equalization of educational opportunities. Including;
Determining the amount of money, per pupil that the state will provide
Determining the amount of local school revenue that can be expected, with a uniform tax rate.
Determine the state allocation by calculating the difference between state funding pledge and local revenue.
Changing climate and current school finance
Due to the changing climate that surrounds education funding, school districts have continued to use obsolete and ineffective finance practices. Some states might end up relying solely on local property tax as the only means of funding education. Also, most states have not yet included the principle of school finance programs. Additionally, some groups such as students with disabilities and gifted students are denied equity due to failure by local government and state to provide sufficient education funds.
Brimley, V., Garfield, R. R., & Verstegen, D. A. (2012). Financing education in a climate of change (11th ed.). Boston: Pearson Education.
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