In his Dec. 28 commentary, “Spending not to blame for schools’ performance”, Jim Nowlan says low-income families don’t have high expectations for their children.
With few exceptions, the parents I have encountered as a teacher and school board member want their children to do well in school. Yet poverty presents often insurmountable obstacles for families and many of our students live in poverty — 49 percent of students in the State and 72 percent of students in the Urbana schools are low-income.
Families in poverty struggle to secure jobs that allow them to be home with their children during afternoon, evening or weekend hours.
They struggle to secure affordable housing, often ending up in the least safe neighborhoods and moving multiple times during a school year.
Nowlan equates test performance with school quality. Looking to standardized tests to determine how good or bad a school is, is like taking one’s temperature with a tablespoon. The factors that contribute to quality educational environments make up Illinois’ new Evidence-Based Funding Model (EBF) and include teacher salaries, small class sizes, specialized personnel, instructional resources and professional development.
If we want all our children to succeed, families need good jobs, affordable housing, safe neighborhoods as well as adequately funded schools. Illinois’ new EBF formula (passed in 2017) is a step in the right direction. At the current rate of funding, however, it will be over a decade before all our schools have the funding they deserve. That is inexcusable.