Chapter 4: “Inequality on Trial: Does Money Make a Difference?”
Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond takes the points with which she was dealing in the previous chapter and addresses funding issues. She looks at the financial support structures that award schools, and she determines that they are inequitable. She asserts that equitable accounting would all but guarantee equitable results. Low-achieving schools should not be made bereft of the very tools and human resources needed to improve the outcomes; rather, they should be undergirded and given the educational environment and financial wherewithal to ameliorate academic achievement. Adequate funding of schools increases students’ performance and such funding helps specifically to improve the instruction of students. (p. 105 ff) Darling-Hammond suggests that inadequate teaching performance and an unstable pedagogical workforce multiply educational costs and cumulatively so over time. These costs are exacerbated by the resultant remediation, retention, disciplinary actions, and dropout rates—“amounting to nearly $300 billion dollars annually.”
Effecting social change and fighting for equity are very challenging endeavors, Darling-Hammond states, but it is necessary to go through the processes to make equitable changes. She is discussing merely reaching a point where every child has the real-life opportunity to acquire a basic and adequate education. When Massachusetts, for example, made funding resources more equitable, improvement in educational outcomes for previously underfunded schools were obvious. After a series of tax cuts, such funding deteriorated and, consequently, erosion of the achievement gains occurred. In addition, Darling-Hammond highlights the two-decades long litigation over school funding in South Carolina. One of the questions involved was whether or not a state has the responsibility, or obligation, to guarantee that all students have access to quality educational environments so that they can meet the minimum state requirements.
Darling-Hammond delineates the various national policies that corrupt schools’ abilities to make the very advances they need. She proceeds to mount evidence that funding and quality go hand in hand.
Research analyses show that the equitable allocation of educational resources turns around school failures and significantly reduces the achievement gaps between students of color and low-income students, on the one hand, and their more economically-equipped white counterparts, on the other hand. Unfortunately, those who wish to maintain the status quo argue that there is no equation between equitable investment and school outcomes. Their perspective reads that low-funded schools are too incompetent to handle increased budgets and that poor children would not benefit from increased resources because they live in a debilitating “culture of poverty, ” à la Flores v. Arizona.
Darling-Hammond concludes the chapter with an examination of the funding inequities in New Jersey prior to 1998, and the positive educational outcomes that transpired when those fiduciary inadequacies were addressed. She demonstrates that investing in preschool initiatives and expert teaching is the key to enhancing learning experiences. Professional development of teachers in pre-K classrooms prepares students to enter elementary schools at a higher level. In addition, the development of comprehensive literacy curricula, including structured reading assignments and small-group instruction, eventuated in successful preparative and learning outcomes in New Jersey. Significant investment in student teachers as well as in continuing education for professionals coupled with an intentional focus on high-need educational districts can buttress and bolster both effective practices and educational results. If continued through the secondary level, Darling-Hammond avers, these professional development initiatives will be a vital part of the school reforms needed successfully to prepare youth for the adult world of college, career, and community.