Can the educational playing field be levelled for students of colour?

As I read through articles published in the New York Times (NYT) about school segregation I could not help but feel discouraged about the young…

As I read through articles published in the New York Times (NYT) about school segregation I could not help but feel discouraged about the young people of colour who slip through the cracks of this educational system. The students who didn’t grow up in the most supportive environment, the students with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, and every other disability. Add this to those who live in low-income areas with their families, who would love a good education for their child but cannot afford it, so their child has to attend the local school which for some is not too challenging. Poverty makes the lives young children attending school difficult on a personal level, and is coupled with a system that is making it a lot worse.

A parent quoted in a NYT article is concerned that his son will not able to compete against other students who have had the finances needed to take the specialized high school exam. “Something needs to be done to level the playing field,” he said. “Everyone should have a fair shot of getting in. It has to be equitable.”

Neighbourhoods with low-income families have schools where the resources are meager. Add that to overworked administrators and teachers, the light can seem very dim at the end of the tunnel for those students. Some students begin the school-year already at a disadvantage, another NYT article cited that, “fourteen years into the system, black and Hispanic students are just as isolated in segregated high schools as they are in elementary schools— a situation that school choice was supposed to ease.” There is no doubt that the economic divide in NYC plays a part. The saying money talks is fitting as the schools with the most money are doing well (in theory) and the other “underperforming” schools are left to figure it out with limited resources.

NYC already spends a lot of money on their students, in fact, “New York spends more money per student than other states in the country; city and elementary schools that serve low-income families receive 15 percent more funding than schools with fewer economically disadvantaged students.” But that is not enough. New York City schools receive millions of dollars towards their overall school budget and the money is not being properly distributed. There are several factors that play into how money gets distributed in NYC schools and it is a process that analysts say does not seem to work. According to, the Fair Student Funding Formula was not taking money from wealthy schools but raising the budgets for the poorer schools, but at the time that decision was made happened around the time of the recession, which scaled back the budget on school aid. And from the looks of it the budget has not recovered since.

It has been reported “as a result, the formula has never been fully funded — and some poorer schools have never quite caught up to wealthier ones. Last year, only 23 percent of city schools received funding at or above the level to which the formula says they’re entitled, according to numbers provided by the city’s Independent Budget Office.”

My view of the public-school system, stems from my perspective as a student in the system who was not the smartest but worked her hardest for the grades I did receive. Looking back as an adult, and seeing the way my schools were administered, in comparison to other schools in other neighborhoods, I definitely think that we could have benefited from more educational resources by putting more money into our school’s budget.

However, this is what some students have to deal with Monday through Friday. Families in low-income areas do not have the financial option to enroll their children into a better school and frankly they should not have to, schools should receive the necessary funding in order to better equip their students with the knowledge needed to not just reach the next grade but to have a well-rounded educational experience that appeals to students across all grade levels and understandings. This also means more qualified teachers, counselors, social workers, after-school programs, etc. The lives of young people across the city should not be taken lightly especially in the poorer neighbourhoods, the educational system as is cannot continue to push our children through the system without a care for the actual knowledge and social-emotional assistance that they need outside of their coursework.

However, we have a duty to implement long-lasting changes that will impact our students for the better. Having a balanced and equal budget that provides each school with what they need to better help the students be more successful in school so they can advocate for others as well as themselves, is important because if children are the future it is time we start implementing systems that reflect that. Maybe it is time to take a look at countries that seem to be educating in a direction we might want to head in and tapping their shoulder and asking for help. I’m no expert, but I know in a country that prides itself on being the biggest and the baddest I hope they keep that shift that same energy when it comes to educating young people in our public schools.

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