Public education is a function of states, not the federal government. Each of the fifty states has one or more constitutional provisions that assign the responsibility of public education to the state. The delivery of educational programming is assigned to local political jurisdictions-school districts. Historically the federal government has played a supplemental role, such as providing funds for vocational education, for math and science education via the National Defense Education Act, for children with disabilities and disadvantaged children; hence, the feds, in the past, have provided programs and services that help states deal with equity issues. Then came No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which encroached on state and local district roles. Congress, in recognition of the utter failure of NCLB, recently replaced it with Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). But…

 

Although ESSA moves somewhat away from excessive high stakes testing and the sanctions and labels applied to students, teachers and schools; it doesn’t help remedy the equity issue that plagues the nation’s most vulnerable children.

 

The thrust of a February 2013 report by the federal Equity Commission is that school funding should be based on the actual education needs of all students. When student needs are accommodated, the equity issue is resolved. But Congress disregarded the report’s recommendations regarding equity and adequacy.

 

Instead of dealing with equity in ESSA, Congress provided for the expansion of the charter industry which has been a colossal failure in many states, especially in Ohio. ESSA even requires that 12.5% of the federal charter school program money be used for facilities assistance. This provision will be a bonus to those for-profit management companies that force their charters to rent facilities from associated real estate companies. One charter school in Ohio paid about $4,500 per pupil for rent in one year.

 

It is preposterous that the federal and state officials in all three branches of government continue to tolerate disparity in educational opportunities. In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court, in the Rodriguez v. San Antonio case had the opportunity to make equity in school funding the law of the land but blinked and tossed the assignment back to the states. States often fumbled and instead established alternatives to public schools such as vouchers and charters. Congress did the same in ESSA.

 

William Phillis
Ohio E & A