To say that education reform in America starts with funding would be an obvious understatement. Yes, it seems that things in the United States are a little backwards right now in terms of government spending; after all, more has been spent over the past few years on prisons than on schools. But youth advocates in Washington State say that adequate education funding is not only about money for classrooms (and teachers). In fact, this group has gone so far as to file a brief with the Washington State Supreme Court to pinpoint what money, exactly, Washington must allocate to public school spending.
The high-profile civil rights activists point out that thousands of school children in the Evergreen State—and a significant amount of them are children of color—have to rely on welfare to survive. Or rather, their families need things like food stamps, housing subsidies, and other social services. Unfortunately, the recent McCleary school-funding lawsuit will undercut many of these efforts that attempts to equalize some of the disparities between young student populations.
According to the group—which includes the Equity in Education Coalition, Children’s Alliance, Columbia Legal Services, and the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance— in the Supreme Court filing: “For low-income students and students of color facing the barriers created by poverty and institutionalized racism, what happens outside the school is just as important to their education as what happens inside the classroom.”
Indeed, approximately 40 percent of school children in the state of Washington live in low-income households. More unfortunate, it is estimated that approximately 35,000 young students in this state are homeless; another 5,000 could be in foster care at any given time. And this latter group has the lowest graduation rate and inversely the highest dropout rates of any student demographic in the Evergreen State.
Housing group executive director Rachael Myers argues that providing adequate education for all students means addressing this financial inequality too. She comments, “Sacrificing one to fund the other is like cutting off the head to save the body.”
In case you need a recap, the 2012 McCleary decision found that Washington State is not, in fact, adequately funding basic education, across the board. While the state now has until 2018 to improve programs, the Supreme Court said, on Thursday, that the progress so far may not be enough, hence they are taking yet another look.