Date: January 20, 2017
Topic: Socioeconomic Effects on Schools
When I sat in on a meeting between my mentor and State Senator Van Taylor, I became intrigued by public school education finance. In the meeting, they discussed “Robin Hood” legislation at the state level. Through these laws, local tax dollars are redistributed. This is so that taxpayer money from wealthier districts helps fund less fortunate districts, thus, leveling the playing field. As they discussed the benefits and shortcomings of current “Robin Hood” policies, I decided to direct my research towards similar laws throughout the country.
In New York City, the lack of “Robin Hood” policies have created a problem. While segregation is not perpetuated by the government, social scientists have observed that Brooklyn schools have become starkly segregated by socioeconomic lines. It makes sense that zoning for public schools corresponds with neighborhoods. However, problems have arisen not from the segregation specifically, but instead the lack of funding for predominantly non-white schools. Without equal taxpayer funding, schools segregated by socioeconomics are facing a major gap between quality of materials and programs.
Initially, I was not surprised by this, and I believed that “Robin Hood” policies would fix this problem. However, as I began to synthesize this new information with what I had learned through my mentor visits, I came to believe that these policies had a dark side. Living in a wealthy suburban school district where taxpayers are hesitant towards raising taxes, I have seen one side of the effect of “Robin Hood” legislation. While my school district has seen lots of success, after a tax ratification election failed, many programs necessary to uphold recommended student to teacher ratios are facing cuts. With Texas “Robin Hood” policies taking money from my district, many administrators in my district are worried about what that means for our finances. However, Texas uses these policies to prevent wealthier districts from having more student opportunities than other districts. As I continued my research, I agreed with the concept, but I struggled to find a happy middle ground for both types of school districts.
School districts with less taxpayer money to support them need significantly more funding. In my opinion, while “Robin Hood” legislation is not the answer. As growing school districts similar to mine struggle to maintain proper student to teacher ratios and fund necessary utilities, wealthier districts may not have as dire of a need for more funding, but the need is still incredibly prevalent. As I continued my research, I discovered that the happy medium for all school districts sounds simple. However, the possible solution goes against the goals of state legislatures, especially that of Texas. Brooklyn’s socioeconomic segregation illustrates that public schools cannot be primarily funded through taxpayer money, while Texas “Robin Hood” legislation illustrates that public schools should not redistribute wealth between districts. If state legislatures provided school districts with necessary funding to fill gaps created by tax discrepancies, then most school districts would provide equal and exceptional opportunities for students, regardless of socioeconomic classes. As I synthesized my research with my personal experiences, I came to believe that state legislatures have the responsibility to provide all public schools with necessary funding without finding the money at the expense of other districts.
Jones, Nikole Hannah. “How The Systemic Segregation Of Schools Is Maintained By ‘Individual
Choices’.” NPR. NPR, 16 Jan. 2017. Web. 20 Jan. 2017.