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Education Quality and Location


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Although an education system’s sole purpose is to educate students so that they may be an engaged member of society for the betterment of themselves and their community, it is common in low-income schools and urban areas that a quality education may not be available, resulting in uneducated graduates within our society.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics on Urban Schools: the Challenge of Location and Poverty, lower income communities, in particular, have been known to negatively affect student’s education. In urban areas, poverty rates regarding children are higher.

On all education outcomes, students from public schools in urban areas do not compare as well to students from suburban schools. They also did not perform as well as rural education systems on roughly half the indicators of academic successes, educational accomplishments and economic status. Those students from high poverty urban areas performed poorer than those of high poverty rural education systems on an eighth grade level as well as completion rates of high school.

“In terms of how we improve public education, the expression ‘money doesn’t solve every problem,’ is true. However, lack of money doesn’t solve any problem,” Pennsylvanian Senator Daylin Leach said. “Poor school districts often don’t have extracurricular activities. They often get rid of the guidance counselor [or] the school nurse. Lack of money, I think, causes real problems. So we have to have to have adequate school funding, I think that’s the number one thing we have to do. It’s important that we give people well-rounded educations and adequate funding for schools.”

Unemployment rates were higher from the high-poverty urban population than the high-poverty suburban population. A majority of these individuals from high-poverty urban areas still graduated on time and several years later, 73 percent of this population was likely to continue their education or become employed, according to the National Center for Education Statistics on Urban Schools: the Challenge of Location and Poverty.

Outcomes of students from high poverty urban education systems differed from others.

Test scores from urban eighth grade level students appeared lower on tests than suburban or rural eighth grader level students. Tenth grade level urban students scored equal to the rural 10th grade level students, while also scoring lower than suburban 10th grade level students. As opposed to being related to urban locations, the concentration of higher poverty in urban areas contributed greatly, according to the National Center for Education Statistics on Urban Schools: the Challenge of Location and Poverty.

According to Special Study Panel on Education Indicators, since the successes of a student are primarily measured by test scores, these numbers also become a measure of achievement for the educational system when measuring that they are teaching the student adequately and the academia performance is satisfactory.

A study on young adult literacy showed that a parent’s education proved having a significant impact on the education that young adults eventually achieve. This reminds society that this simply is not a trend but a lifestyle. Children will emulate not only their parents’ habits and hobbies but their education and desire to be a part of society.

Funds for the low-income education systems may not be high, and this equates to a lack of materials and necessities in order to aid with impactful learning structures. Educators in high-poverty urban schools feel as if they do not have the necessary materials, unlike teachers in other school systems. Sixty-seven percent of teachers in urban high-poverty schools felt as though resources were only satisfactory, according to the National Center for Education Statistics on Urban Schools: the Challenge of Location and Poverty.

“The education system [in Philadelphia] is horrible,” Armando Carvajalino, Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility inmate, said. “They’re more about their checks [and] the way I was brought up in school, I was in Catholic school [and] they just passed me because my mom paid the tuition, even though I was doing horrible.”

According to the National Center for Education Statistics on Urban Schools: the Challenge of Location and Poverty, the salaries of teachers in high poverty urban school systems were higher than teachers in the rural regions. Education systems with the highest amount of poverty had the highest percentage of teachers with three years or less teaching experience. This happened to be 70 percent higher than that of low-poverty education systems, which make up seven percent.

“The system is all messed up, the whole school system,” Carvajalino said. “The teachers don’t really care. There are some that do, but mostly they don’t. They just tell you to do this and do that, and that’s it.”

Funding of Education



Public schools are financed on a variety of levels, including federal, state and local. By far the number one source of funds is derived from the state level through taxes.

“Public education is funded primarily throughout our country on real estate taxes so jurisdiction tax real estate based on the value of real estate and, so the potential that you would have in any pot of money to fund schools is affected by how much the property is valued within a particular jurisdiction,” Cheryl Logan, chief academic supports officer for the School District of Philadelphia, said.

This can present a huge problem to schools that may be located in poorer jurisdictions.

“If you have poor districts where the tax base is going to be low because home ownership is low, home values are low, you’re going to have a base of money to spend that will be lower than in another jurisdiction where the property values are high,” Logan added.

Gaping disparities exist for these elementary and secondary education students. While more affluent districts receive a higher level of local funding, poorer districts lag behind, an article from The Washington Post states.  

Pennsylvania has the highest per-pupil spending differential in the entire country, the article goes on to say. The article explains that “per-pupil spending in the poorest school districts is 33 percent lower than per-pupil spending in the wealthiest school districts.” That means that once again, students in poorer districts are being put at a disadvantage.

According to Logan, in every Pennsylvania city with the exception of Philadelphia, superintendents have the latitude to raise taxes. “Whatever base amount of funds you have is going to determine what your per-pupil expenditure is in a given jurisdiction and then that will certainly affect what kind of services you are able to or not able to provide,” she said.

Moreover, the Education Law Center’s Report Card measured in their 2015 study whether school funding is fair. In state funding distribution, 14 states, including Pennsylvania, Maryland and Nevada, were found to have “regressive” funding distribution, which is defined asproviding less money to schools with higher concentrations of students from low-income families.”

Despite attending parochial school, Corley Chapman, an inmate at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, is fully aware that public schools in Philadelphia face challenges. “Well the school system in Philadelphia is absolutely horrible if you’re in public school,” Chapman said. “They’re always facing some type of shortfall and it really looks like they’re trying to privatize or actually make a business of education in Philly with the charters and stuff.”

Indeed, the way in which a school is funded is not the only way a public school can become disadvantaged. Charter schools also suck funding out of the public school system, causing even more disparities in the ways that a public school system’s budget is affected.

A report by Moody’s writes that charter schools pose a credit threat to schools in “economically weak urban areas.” The report argues that by having students change to a charter school from a public school, it could cause financial distress.

Charter schools tend to proliferate in areas where school districts already show a degree of underlying economic and demographic stress,” the report states. “Charter schools can pull students and revenues away from districts faster than the districts can reduce their costs.”

Because funds then get sucked out of the public schools and costs are cut, more students could potentially seek out alternative options, including charter schools, further driving inequities.

“One thing that concerns me about charter schools is that they rely on some external funds, so they need philanthropy to support them and when, if, philanthropy goes through cycles or through fads, then as funders stop being interested in charter schools, we’re going to be in really big trouble because we’re not going to have the funds to sustain the schools that we’ve now built and now we can’t afford them,” Vontrese Deeds Pamphile, a doctoral student in management and organizations & sociology at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, said.

At the end of the day, districts need to work with their schools, particularly those affected by the economic downturn, said Logan, particularly poor districts.

If you think about any sort of economic downturn, the people who are the least able to sustain themselves or the most dependent on social safety nets are affected the most,” Logan said.

Inequality in Higher Education




The first step after getting a high school education is typically moving on to higher education. This step, however, is not possible for a lot of students due to the role that wealth inequality plays in their lives.

“If they have access to unequal resources beginning early, then that contributes to inequalities in performance that then play out throughout their educational careers,” Ross Rubenstein, professor of public management and policy at Georgia State University, said. “And eventually it affects their ability to graduate high school and get into college. And if they are able to overcome the odds and get into college, it can affect the types of schools they attend.”

There are many factors that play into a student’s decision on whether or not to attend college. The cost of college is one major factor. According to the College Board, the average cost of college depends on such factors as whether one stays in state or goes out of state for college.

“What might be less covered in the media is that a student’s living costs have also been rising. That’s what you need to pay to have adequate shelter, adequate food, your transportation, make sure you can get your laundry done; everything else about going to school,” Katharine Broton, Ph.D. candidate in sociology, said.

The amount spent on room and board can vary greatly depending on the school you attend and how much housing is available on campus. According to, the average costs for room and board have been growing steadily over the last few years, where students are paying anywhere from $7,500 to $9,000 per year to live on campus, depending on whether it is a public or private university.

There are way that students can receive help in order to pay for things such as the cost of college and their housing. There are many different types of financial aid that is available to students and their families in order to lessen the burden.

Federal Student Aid is known as the largest provider of student financial aid. They provide over $150 billion in federal grants, loans and work-study funds each year to help students pay for college. They are also responsible for developing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known to most as the FAFSA.

The FAFSA takes a look at many factors to determine the amount of financial aid a student can receive. It asks for the parents’ tax information, as well as the student’s tax information, and includes many other factors. There are also questions that are not answered within the FAFSA.

“There’s some ways that I think we can focus on how wealth is handled in the FAFSA. So for example, several assets are not included in the expected family contribution calculations. Things like the equity in a primary home, retirement accounts, small family-owned businesses, cash value of life insurances. Those don’t get put into the formula when we’re figuring out how much aid should a student be awarded,” Broton said.

She added that the form does not look at debt situations with the family.

Along with paying for college, some students simply don’t have the time or resources available to attend college.

“There are big differences in high school graduation rates and so obviously if you don’t graduate high school, you don’t have the opportunity to attend college. And so we start to see the gaps starting pretty early on and perpetuating throughout students’ educational careers,” Rubenstein said.

Having the resources available to them, such as SAT or ACT prep, is also important. Students with these types of resources also have more access to professional programs that help them do better on those types of tests.  

One of the biggest things to understand is that there are many types of reasons for these inequalities, according to Fabian Pfeffer, research assistant professor at the University of Michigan.

“I think there is a lot, there should be a lot to be done to address these educational inequalities. There are many reasons why you might want to reduce educational inequalities. Some of them are normative or moral reasons. But increasingly, I think people are also aware of the fact that there are economic reasons to this. That it’s actually not very good for anyone that we don’t have enough college graduates.”

In the end, while these inequalities in education need to be fixed, we must begin with the problem of wealth inequality overall as a guiding step to addressing the problems and finding solutions.

How the Education System Creates Inequality




Wealth and economic inequality directly affect public education. Students are put at a disadvantage based on fissures in the education system, in addition to simply being a victim of circumstance.

The White House has developed strategies to reform the educational system, including higher standards and assessments, smarter data systems and detailed attention to low-performing schools, according to their website about K-12 education. Other strategies include reformation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, redesigning high schools, investing in teachers and more.

“All of these major institutions of society, like education, doesn’t operate on its own,” Vontrese Deeds Pamphile, a doctoral student in management and organizations and sociology at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, said. “So it touches everything else like the economy, housing, everything kind of comes together so it’s just one slice of the pie but it’s a very important slice because that’s where the majority of time is spent, especially in childhood.”

Disparities also exist between races and ethnicities. A study from the National Center for Education Statistics found that, in regards to public education graduation rates in the year 2011-12, 85 percent of white students graduate on time with a regular diploma, compared to 68 percent of black students and 76 percent Latino students.

In Oxford Journals’ The Punishment Gap: School Suspension and Racial Disparities in Achievement,” as cited by Journalist’s Resource, authors found that black and Latino students were more likely to be suspended, schools with a higher concentration of black students had higher rates of suspension, in addition to this staggering statistic: “Even after controlling for socioeconomic status, special education and gender, black students were predicted to be almost three times more likely to be suspended than white students.”

But can education itself fix these racial and economic disparities? The American dream may romanticize that idea but it’s not the reality for everyone.

“Everybody in this country can go to a public school where they live and people can take advantage of [working] hard and [taking] advantage of a free public education and then working hard enough, hopefully have an opportunity to expand their education,” Cheryl Logan, chief academic supports officer for the School District of Philadelphia, said. “So that’s pretty much essentially how that works for us here in this country in that the more education you have, the more earning potential you have by every measure that’s out there.”

Education reform needs to be sustainable in order for any progress to be made and it needs to include strategies for improving every other factor that perpetuates inequalities.

In UNESCO’s “Educating For A Sustainable Future,” they reiterate the fact that education is a force for change. However, they point out that education cannot solve every issue related to inequality.

Education, to be certain, is not the whole answer to every problem,” the study says. “But education, in its broadest sense, must be a vital part of all efforts to imagine and create new relations among people and to foster greater respect for the needs of the environment.”

One thing is certain: education can serve as a catalyst for change and investments throughout a child’s life can greatly reduce the chances of being a victim of inequality.