Financial adequacy in public education
Under finance adequacy, educational districts provide schools with the minimum level of funding necessary to teach students. The lawmakers of each state decide what is “necessary.” On the other side of the educational policy debate is equity. Under an equity system, every school district, rich or poor, is taxed the same and receives similar revenue for each student.
What is adequacy
Adequacy is defined as “the minimum amount needed to be sufficient.” It is true that many students can make do with what they are given. This is demonstrated every day when kids raised in poverty who attended underfunded schools make it to the Ivy League, get a PhD, or become doctors or lawyers against all odds. But just because a student can make do with the bare minimum doesn’t mean the system is treating them fairly, or that policy should be designed so that they continue to receive the fewest possible resources.
The term “adequate” is so subjective, and everyone has personal biases—because of this, in some districts, policymakers might decide that adequacy funding should cover extracurricular activities or new laptops, while in others, they might ask districts to make do with old textbooks or outdated technology. Schools in poor neighborhoods are constantly and historically under-resourced and underfunded. I believe adequacy policy attempts to justify continued discrimination against poor people.
Conclusion: from adequate to exceptional
While spending money on education does not translate directly into educational quality, it does incentivize quality teaching and quality learning. Under an equity system, every student in the district has equal access to well-paid teachers. Every student has the same access to field trips or technology that sparks their curiosity and makes them dream outside the four walls of their classroom. Every student has his or her needs met equally—and as a result, every student will have an equal chance of success. We do not need any more “adequate” adults. We need exceptional adults, and we need to support students from poor neighborhoods so that they can begin shaping policy, reducing the gap between rich and poor, and making widespread changes. Promoting equity over finance adequacy can thus help create a fairer society overall.
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