Is Equal Financial Funding the Answer to Poverty Gaps in Schools?
Education is arguably one of the most significant facets of life. Like it or not, our education determines many factors in the lives of citizens from occupation, to social status. A good education, regardless of an individual’s level of intelligence, can mean the difference between getting scholarships to Harvard, and working low-level entry jobs for a lifetime.
Colorado’s K-12 schools have one of the worst poverty gaps in the nation, ranking number 45. Students who qualified for financial aid (in the form of free or reduced lunch) scored significantly lower on state standardized tests than those who did not. The question is, why?
Educational Funding Inequality In Colorado
According to Tracie Rainie, an official contributor to the Non-profit and Non-partisan Colorado School Finance Report, “Your ZIP code is really determining the quality of education that you’re getting. You are not creating equal playing fields.” With this variability of state school funding, districts have had to turn to local funding through tax levies, making for an even larger gap in locations where there are high levels of poverty. The state government also provides grants to schools who perform better on standardized tests, leaving facilities with lower-funding and consequently lower test scores to repeat a detrimental cycle. The Colorado Government currently provides per pupil funding by combining the amount of state and local funds meant for education, and dividing it among the population of students who attend government funded schools. This number is then multiplied by the population of each school. Of course larger schools need and deserve more funding, but after this per pupil funding, additional financing is given to affluent schools. At the same time, similarly sized schools in terms of population are subject to reduced state aid at the discretion of budget committees who may hold biased.
Is A Bill to Equalize School Funding Across the State The Solution?
Recently, education is a hot topic in politics, especially in this YIG Model Legislation as it is primarily made up of students who are affected by current legislation, especially regarding funding. Bill 4-403, “An Act to Equalize High School Funding in Colorado,” is a perfect example of this and it may be the answer to our state’s current problem. This bill proposes that schools be funded through per pupil funding only with exception of extra funding to at-risk, ASCENT, and online students that is already in place. This would eliminate the possibility of biased in budgetary committees and allow equal opportunities for growth surrounding curriculum, test scores, and efficient teaching practices across the state. Unfortunately, this bill was not passed, failing in committee, but it is an important piece of legislation to consider in the future.