I'm baaaaaaack.

Hoarding All the Glitter Since 2001.

03 August 2010

Argle bargle.

(Sorting through, disjointed, etc.)

I strongly believe that diverse schools are best.  Moreover, I think diversity in and of itself is an important value; all children deserve diverse schools because all children benefit from it.  Well, providing that the school affirms that diversity for all, I suppose.  So I would love to teach at and learn in a diverse school.  I feel fortunate that our school staff is quite diverse, and that our student population is also mixed.  Still, our school staff is not diverse in ages and the children at my school are all of color and mostly (80%) poor.

Yet some wealthier and whiter parents are not interested in diverse schools - or at least schools that match SFUSD demographics.  I don't think anyone would benefit from their (perceived) forced presence; their perceptions of the school community would complicate assuming best intentions on either side.  I still think these parents and their children would benefit, but the amount of work it would take to just get everyone talking seems way too strenuous.

So right now I'd settle for more equity with the students we have right now.  Our schools are not equitably funded, and it's a problem.  Moreover, there is a persistent attitude among some stakeholders in SFUSD that poorer schools are riding high on Title I funds.  That is simply false.  Not only are those funds miniscule, this position ignores the reality that Title I students need more.  They need more services through school health.  They need more school readiness activities.  They need more counseling, more food, more after school programming, more outlets, more more more.  The Weighted Student Formula isn't keeping up, and neither is federal Title I.

Then there's locally collected money.  At a school level, some schools are raking in PTA dollars.  We're not.  Without getting into any of the issues around this, it's not possible to argue that it's fair - and I don't think much of "Life isn't fair" being visited upon children in this way.  (Besides which: my Kindergartners have figured that out already.)  More broadly, the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of property tax funding disparities, so districts with high property values (Palo Alto) or big industrial concerns (Santa Clara) have more money on hand than SFUSD does.  And of course, California's statewide school funding is abysmal.

All that said, I am growing more and more concerned with the idea that one has to do one's best for one's child no matter what the cost is.  The fact that so many San Francisco parents opt out of public schools means that the system as a whole becomes less diverse, and it loses its most powerful advocate voices: the voices that have the power and the privilege to demand systemic changes to school funding.  (Small philanthropy is great, and I love Donors Choose, but I think the state should be funding my classroom.)  So the aggregate of doing one's best for one's child is that many other children get less.  Long term, I suspect the costs for that same child will be great (PreK to prison pipeline, etc.) but the cold hard cash arguments are not my favorite.

I think what is bothering me right now is that I feel like there is very little understanding that like it or not, we really are all in this together.  Opting out is not actually an option; you can opt different, if you will, but you are not an island.  I want to live in a society that cherishes its members and works collectively for all within it.  Lately, I feel like "American individualism" has become a contrary (and false, BECAUSE YOU STILL AREN'T AN ISLAND) and forceful thing that does great harm.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post. Thank you, and please keep speaking out.
--parent of 2 in SFUSD