The Benefits of Funding Public Education

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Introduction

Education is an important part of life as many people know it today. There is a lot for students to learn and absorb, but those who bring us such information also need to feel the benefits of the educational system. The public educational system is very important to our country because of many reasons. It greatly benefits the lives of those less fortunate and low-income American families. When care is taken to properly fund and watch over public education, it shows people that the government still cares about them, regardless of their income or class position. There are great benefits to funding public education and it must continue to be funded for the good of the entire country.

Overview

For many students and their families, public education is the program to which they turn to when it comes to educating their children. It is often regulated by the state government and state funding, and as such, it is run by the state government’s rules. In Michael Resnick’s article, “An American imperative: Public education,” posted by the Center for Public Education, he writes that “public education means a tuition-free, publicly funded system that must provide an education to each child in a neighborhood school within a publicly governed school system. The academic standards, the teachers and administrators, the values and methods of operation employed in these schools are all subject to oversight and direction by public policy-making bodies. The rights of students and parents are legally defined and are enforceable by the courts” (Resnick). Simply put, the rights of the students and teachers, as well as how and what they teach daily is run by a higher level of government than simply the school itself. This is because of its state funding.

It is important, as well, to continue to fund public schools because it is an organization that allows many children from low-income and high-income families alike to get the same level of learning. Resnick also writes that, following the 2005-2006 school year, “each state’s certification standards must require that all public school teachers in the state, at all grade levels, be ‘highly qualified’ to teach the academic subject area they are assigned… to demonstrate that they are highly qualified, teachers must successfully complete an academic major, pass a test, or be successfully evaluated in their classroom ability to teach that subject” (Resnick). Because the educators in the public school system are meant to be held at such a high standard, it is important for these schools to be continuously funded – if for nothing else, then for the children who need it.

Benefits of Public Schools

At first, it may seem as if the spending on public education in the United States is too much. Billions of dollars every few years for public education does seem like a great waste of money to some, but this is where the benefits should be presented. There are great benefits that come from this support of public education, and when it is done correctly, it works itself out monetarily.

In Dana Mitra’s 2011 article, “Pennsylvania’s Best Investment: The Social and Economic Benefits of Public Education,” it turns out that high school dropouts are more than twice as likely to become unemployed and three times more likely to be on welfare assistance. Government assistance alone costs billions of dollars each year. As well, 41 percent of all prisoners have not graduated high school or received their GED (General Education Diploma) which is being compared to 18 percent of the American adult population. “The annual cost of incarcerating an individual is about $32,000, while the annual cost of a quality public education is about $11,000” (Mitra). As well, there has been “a five percent increase in the graduate rates of males, and such would save about $5 billion annually in crime-related expenses. Mortality decreases for every additional year in schooling by 7.2% for men and 6% for women; and the chances of optimum health is up to 8 times higher for citizens with eighteen years of education versus only seven” (Mitra). There is a lot of money to be saved in allowing students a proper education in the earlier stages of their lives. People are healthier and tend to save their communities more as far as welfare and medical bills.

Social Benefits

When children have access to proper education, they save the world more than money – they also save their communities a lot of trouble. “A population that is better educated has less unemployment, reduced dependence on public assistance programs, and greater tax revenue. Education also plays a key role in the reduction of crime, improved public health, and greater political and civic engagement. Investment in public education results in billions of dollars of social and economic benefits for society at large” (Mitra). Investing in education does more good than anything else. It allows a community of people to be more productive, happier and healthier, and as crime rates go down as will the overall value of the community as far as property. It will simply be a more valuable place to be – and all this comes out of public education.

According to Lance Lochner at Vox, “around the world, incarceration and conviction rates are high among the least educated” (Lochner). As was previously stated, there are great economic advantages when public education keeps students and adults out of trouble with the law. However, that impact is much more than that. When people, i.e. students, stay out of trouble and out of prisons, they are more productive citizens and actually have a chance to do some good in their communities. “Open school enrolment lotteries and desegregation efforts appear to reduce crime rates by improving school quality” (Lochner). Improving school quality improves the quality of life in entire communities. When communities improve, people are less likely to have to fight for quality of life in the future. Public educational funding seems to be paving a great road ahead for future students - but is it an entirely good thing?

Arguments against Public Education

There are several reasons why those who are for the privatization of public schools and their funding are speaking out against the government’s role. Bruce Walker, of the New American, writes: “There is a common element to all public school systems, however: taxpayers support these systems… a predictable corollary to this fact is that the average cost per school, Rockwell writes, is twice that of private schools” (Walker). According to Walker, those parents who pay for their children’s private education are paying two tuitions – the original fees and the taxes that are taken out to support public schools. It is suggested that people simply send their children to religious schools or home-school them.

According to the Council for American Private Education, there are several benefits of giving a child a private education. Private schools save taxpayers an estimated $50 billion every year. Private school students perform better than those students in public schools on standardized achievement tests. As well, sixty-seven percent of private high school graduates attend four-year colleges, which are compared to the 40 percent of public high school graduates who go on to further their academic career (“Benefits”). Walker also claims that the greatest American minds were not educated in public school, and were rarely given any education all.

However, is that really an excuse to throw the poorest of Americans under the bus? If there could come a day where every American school is privatized, it would force many low-income students out of an education. Public education and the programs that it offers for low-income children are so far above the benefits of private schooling in that private schools would exclude these children. For some, their school lunches are the only meal that they get before dinner, and because it is free, it helps both them and their families. To force every family in America to pay for their child’s education when they can sometimes barely feed or clothe them, it is simply unfair. Funding for public education may seem like a whole lot when viewed as numbers on a page, but it does so much good for both the individual student and their community.

Funding

Public education is generally funded at the state level. It is funded through a combination of state income taxes, corporate taxes, sales taxes and fees that provide around 48 percent of the budget for elementary and secondary schools. Local school districts contribute about 44 percent that is drawn from local property taxes. The federal government contributes eight percent of the state education budget. These funds are distributed by students to make sure that all education costs are covered. They are also distributed by program, to make sure that each program that a school has will have enough funding for the school year (“School”). Individually, each state has its own system for funding public and private education. They are each responsible for “providing a level of funding necessary for a basic education shared between the state and local districts” (“School”). Many times, the amount of funding that goes to public education is dependent on the value of property in the area. This often changes from year to year as well. This means that children and adolescents who are living in lower-income areas do not receive a quality education and those in an area with higher property value.

The timeline surrounding public education funding is an important aspect of this issue. In the 1960s President Lyndon B. Johnson signed something called the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which targets around $1 billion in federally generated funds to better serve students in low-income families. In the mid-1990s Clinton signed for nearly $9 billion to the reauthorization of ESEA. In 2001 Bush started the No Child Left Behind act, which began to hold the states, districts and the schools accountable for their students’ achievements. $22.2 billion was placed into educational spending, even though it had planned on some $26.4 billion originally. More recently, President Barack Obama has put roughly $100 billion into public education (Payzant). It would seem like a lot goes into the state and federal funding into public education, but it is well worth the investment, according to a recent study in California:

“In a study released today (Tuesday, April 24), three UC Berkeley researchers conclude that graduates of the University of California and California State University systems provide ongoing returns to the state that average $12 billion a year. That’s well above California’s current general fund expenditures for the UC, CSU and community-college systems combined, they note” (Maclay).

This study shows us that funding public education for children will allow them to one day give back to society. It can be understood that people can change at any age, but it is important to allow children to embrace their education early in life so that they can one day give back to the communities that gave them a chance.

The Future of Publically Funded Education

There is plenty to be done by way of helping children reach their full potential through supporting public education. It is not simply about making that inner-city school look better, but to aid the children inside the school in getting to university level and become successful in their adult lives. Recently, it came to the public’s knowledge that a millionaire in Orlando, Florida, by the name of Harris Rosen, aged 73, who decided to ‘adopt’ a low-income neighborhood in Orlando 20 years ago. It was Tangelo Falls, and it is a community of about 3,000 people. “In the two decades since starting the programs, Rosen has donated nearly $10 million, and the results have been remarkable. The high school graduation rate is now nearly 100 percent, and some property values have quadrupled. The crime rate has been cut in half, according to a study by the University of Central Florida” (Stump). Rosen has been very generous within this community and has changed many lives. His example has shown the truest benefits of public education.

In an article posted by the U.S. Department of Education, “The structure of education finance in America reflects this predominant State and local role. Of an estimated $1.15 trillion being spent nationwide on education at all levels for the school year 2011-2012, a substantial majority will come from State, local, and private sources…. this is especially true at the elementary and secondary level, where about 87.7 percent of the funds will come from non-Federal sources” (“The”). This describes the importance of state and local funding at the state and local level. It is important for citizens to fund and vote for funding for public education at the state and local level. When communities can come together and support their local schools and educational programs, they are directly affecting the future.

“Despite the growth of the Federal role in education, the Department (of Education) never strayed far from what would become its official mission: to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access” (“The”).

The United States Department of Education cares very much for the quality of education that students today and tomorrow will receive. However, it is just as important for the people of those students’ communities to care about their education as well. This all starts with the proper funding and support.

Conclusion

It is very important for every child to have the opportunity to get a proper education, no matter what their family’s economic position may be. Education is an important step in a person’s emotional development and the subject of public and private funding should be a decision for each family. But public education has to be around for those who cannot afford a choice. The world is always going to be a better place, at any and every level, if people can receive the education that they need and deserve.

Works Cited

“Benefits of Private Education.” Council for American Private Education. 2013. Web. 27 Nov. 2013. < http://www.capenet.org/benefits4.html>.

Lochner, Lance. “The impacts of education on crime, health and mortality, and civic participation.” VOX Eu. Centre for Economic Policy Research. 17 Oct. 2011. Web. 25 Nov. 2013. <http://www.voxeu.org/article/wide-ranging-benefits-education>.

Maclay, Kathleen. “Berkeley researchers find big benefits for students, taxpayers and state from funding of higher education.” UC Berkeley News Center. 24 Apr. 2012. Web. 23 Nov. 2013. <http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/

Mitra, Dana. “Pennsylvania’s Best Investment: The Social and Economic Benefits of Public Education.” Pennsylvania State University. 2011. Web. 24 Nov. 2013. <http://www.elc-pa.org/BestInvestment_Full_Report_6.27.11.pdf>.

Payzant, Thomas. “Four Funding Imperatives for Public Schools.” Edutopia. The George Lucas Educational Foundation. 17 Jul. 2009. Web. 24 Nov. 2013. <http://www.edutopia.org/economic-stimulus-education-funding-priorities>.

Resnick, Michael A. “An American imperative: Public education.” Center for Public Education. 2004. Web. 24 Nov. 2013.< http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Main-Menu/Public-education/An-American-imperative-Public-education->

“School Finance.” Editorial Projects in Education. 20 Jun. 2011. Web. 24 Nov. 2013. <http://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/school-finance/>.

Stump, Scott. “Millionaire uses fortune to help kids in struggling town.” Today. 17 Apr. 2013. Web. 23 Nov. 2013. <http://www.today.com/news/millionaire-uses-fortune-help-kids-struggling-town-1C9373666>.

“The Federal Role in Education.” U.S. Department of Education. 2 Feb. 2012. Web. 24 Nov. 2013. <http://www2.ed.gov/about/overview/fed/role.html>.

Walker, Bruce. “An Argument for Privatizing Public Schools.” The New American. 27 Jul. 2012. Web. 27 Nov. 2013. < http://thenewamerican.com/culture/education/item/12237-an-argument-for-privatizing-public-schools>.