Date: March 17, 2017
Topic: Politics Preventing Progress in Education Policy
Though Thomas Jefferson claimed that “the tax which will be paid for the purpose of education is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings… who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance,” current statesmen and women have reached a political deadlock regarding education finance policy. While people along both sides of the aisle believe that the government has the duty to educate its children, the parties lack a common goal past this sentiment. Throughout my research, it has become clear that the debate around school choice illustrates the deeper underlying tones of education finance issues. The motivations behind this debate—freedom to choose one’s education versus equal opportunity for all—have deep roots that stretch further down into public education finance systems that lack voucher programs. I have come to conclude that this is because vouchers are not a new issue, instead just an extension of an age old issue. With state and federal legislative bodies unable to decide how to provide equal educational opportunities to students, politics have engulfed this important policy debate.
Given that most of my research for my final product has been regarding education finance policy in the conservative legislature of Texas, I researched an extreme liberal standpoint regarding this issue. Having done so, I believe that I am now more familiar with the polarization between the political parties preventing them from working towards a meaningful finance solution. With this intention, I was surprised by the similarities between both widely partisan policy viewpoints.
When comparing recapture legislation in Texas and a federal socialist approach to education finance, I immediately noticed a shared theme: both viewpoints believe that funding should be taken away from wealthier students and districts in order to provide for struggling districts. I believe that this does signal a common goal between both conservative and liberal thinkers. However, Texas policies rely more on redistributing the funding already in place, instead of increasing the state budget to use state money to improve struggling districts. Compared to a policy viewpoint that advocates for redistribution, as well as added funding, this illustrates a completely different paradigm to the values head across the aisle.
This, in my opinion, is the underlying tone between all debates regarding education policy in the U.S. By sharing the ideal that students in public schools should receive equal funding, it is clear that conservatives and liberals, even on the extreme, believe that students must be provided with equal opportunity. However, the level of opportunity is where I believe the ideologies begin to differ. Texas recapture legislation reveals that the state representatives and senators are opposed to providing any funding besides what is necessary to districts, ultimately bringing districts to an equal, but low standard. The socialist point of view, on the contrary, suggests that the federal government has the duty to funnel more money into schools, thus, raising struggling districts to meet currently high-performing districts. While no party or political ideology believes that students should be taught the bare minimum, school choice advocates speak for families to choose what students should be taught. I believe that this is where the discrepancies in “equal opportunity” arise.
From my research and analysis, I have come to believe that policies similar to recapture allow for public school systems to adhere to a curriculum that fosters a community where charter and private schools will prosper. This is because families who do not favor the public school curriculum will move their children into charter schools, resultantly creating competition between all schools in the given area. On the contrary, polices that air on the socialist side believe that if all public schools are held to a high curriculum and performance standard, then there will be no need for competition. These opposing viewpoints do mirror the ideologies on most other issues. However, the political deadlock regarding legislation for non-education issues is not this pronounced. I believe that by incorporating the wellbeing of children as well as the future of the workforce and economy into the rhetoric surrounding education finance policy, this issue has become so emotionally charged, that legislators and their constituents feel unable to compromise. As I continue my final product regarding this issue, I will take into account the politics of education finance, given that it has become so divisive. Additionally, I will further my research by exploring how unconventional political campaign strategies could clear the way for meaningful compromise and legislation regarding education finance.
White, Jerry. “Socialist Policies Are Necessary to Save Public Education.” Is Socialism
Harmful?, edited by Ronald D. Lankford, Jr., Greenhaven Press, 2011. At Issue.
Opposing Viewpoints in Context, link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/EJ3010759214/OVIC?u=j043905001&xid=7009c08d. Accessed 17 Mar. 2017. Originally published as “U.S.: Socialism and the Defense of Public Education,” World Socialist Web Site, 24 Dec. 2009.