Do some kids get more public schooling than others?
Former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley has written a provocative essay in Education Week on the "skyboxing of education."
In it, the former Clinton Administration official takes America to task for creating a public education system that depends so completely on local property taxes and charitable donations. The result, he says, is a society in which the quality of education depends on where you live.
"Like their socioeconomic peers at ballgames," he writes, "students in education skyboxes are buffered from realities most students face by their well-appointed educational accommodations: 'Need an extra AP program? Right away, sir. Would you like an International Baccalaureate with that?' Meanwhile, the vast majority of students sit in the equivalent of bleacher seats, or they are stuck behind a pillar, squinting to see their teachers in overcrowded classrooms."
Reilly doesn't push his argument to its logical conclusion by posing an outright challenge to America's education funding system. He doesn't say, for example, that the U.S. Constitution ought to explicitly guarantee equal education resources for every child. Both in his essay and in a report from the National Commission on Civic Investment in Education, which he co-chaired, Reilly focuses more on the goodwill of private organizations and local legislators to make things right. Think President George H.W. Bush's "Thousand Points of Light." (In an appendix the report cites the Hillsborough Education Foundation as a good example of such efforts.)
But Reilly certainly puts the issue of funding equity on the table. What do you think? Can local communities promote more fairness in U.S. public education and help, in Reilly's words, to convince people to worry about educating other people's children and not just their own? Or is it time for a fundamental re-thinking of the way we pay for education in this country?