Accountability and Equity in our Schools

Aurelio M. Montemayor, M.Ed.

Accountability means answerability, responsibility and liability. Equity means being just and fair and not having a bias or showing favoritism.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act gives significant leverage to parents of children in schools that receive federal funds. Yet there is no stronger lever for parents than each state’s constitutional responsibility to provide an excellent education to all children. For example, the Texas state constitution defines tremendous rights for parents in the education of their children.

NCLB Accountability

Funding education is fundamentally a state responsibility. This is why schools may supplement but not supplant the state responsibilities with federal resources. As outlined in the January 2007 issue of the IDRA Newsletter, NCLB includes six key elements, or levers, for parents. The strength of these levers are premised on states providing the fundamental equitable funding needed as a foundation:

  • A School Parent Involvement Policy. Such a policy requires certain resources to be carried out.
  • A School-Parent Compact. Without the appropriate resources, these compact agreements cannot have meaningful impact.
  • Parent Involvement Districtwide Policy. Effective parent involvement requires investment to focus on engagement of families that impacts student success rather than on "punch and cookie" events to no effect.
  • School Report Cards are only useful if the school has the appropriate resources to support the academic achievement of all students.
  • Public School Choice and Supplemental Educational Services. Underfunding of schools is a major cause of the conditions that lead some parents to seek these alternatives.

The strong levers that NCLB gives to parents are seriously weakened if there is a condition of inequity in funding. Fair funding is a necessary foundation for a system that truly leaves no child behind.

State Responsibility

Just over a decade ago, the Texas legislature finally took steps to reduce inequity in funding between property wealthy and property poor school districts. This was the result of public information, the creation of a public will for fair funding of all schools, litigation and legislation. Unfortunately, several months ago, the legislature returned Texas to the time of high contrast between resource-rich and resource-poor schools (see box below).

School districts teaching 91 percent of Texas students are having to raise taxes, cut programs for children and lay off teachers. Children with unique needs being served by special education, bilingual education, and gifted and talented programs are being poorly served.

Money is a central answer, though obviously not the only one. Visualize color-coded stick pins on a state map. The red pins represent resource-poor schools and green pins represent resource-rich schools. The map would be a sea of red with a few tiny islands of green. That’s inequity.

Keep Your Eye on the Prize (Price)

For the power of the NCLB federal law to result in academic success for all students and for there to be a guaranteed graduation (which is the spirit of NCLB), there has to be equitable funding of schools. It is illogical to hold neighborhood public schools responsible for providing an excellent education to all children while having them operate with the huge handicap of underfunding. Annual yearly progress necessitates appropriate and fair funding.

This allows for competitive salaries for teachers and staff. It provides the fundamental source for well-stocked libraries and good physical plants. It keeps and increases resources in neighborhood schools, which are central to healthy neighborhoods and communities. Equitable funding enables neighborhood schools to serve all children with appropriate and excellent instruction.

Parents must remind decision-makers that all children in the state merit an excellent education, and it should not matter where the child lives and goes to school for him or her to get a good education. It is unconstitutional, unethical and counter-productive to allow serious inequity in the basic resources made available to children. As long as there are preferred public school districts, all districts will be affected negatively. The economic future of the community, the state and the nation suffers as a result.

Aurelio M. Montemayor, M.Ed, is an IDRA senior education associate and director of the Texas IDRA Parent Information and Resource Center. Comments and questions may be directed to him via e-mail at comment@idra.org.

Did you know?

As a result of legislative actions in 2006 in Texas’ school finance system…

  • 4.1 million children are in schools with severely limited resources for qualified teachers, up-to-date curriculum and basic supplies. At the same time, 200,000 children are in well-funded schools receiving an excellent education.
  • The gap in average per pupil expenditures has grown by 30 percent. Texas’ top 50 wealthiest schools are 72 percent White. Texas’ poorest 50 schools are 94 percent Hispanic.
  • Funding for special student populations remains grossly insufficient. Bilingual education is given a weight of 0.10, when research shows it should have a weight of 0.40. Compensatory education is given a weight of 0.20, when research shows it should have a weight of 0.40. Either local districts and communities must make up the difference or students are left unserved or underserved.

Source: Intercultural Development Research Association

Speaking About Fair Funding for Education of All Students

alt"The core of our dream must value young people – all young people. We cannot afford to value some schools and not others, some neighborhoods and not others, some ethnic or racial group and not others, some families and not others."

"We must ensure that any new funding plan provides equitable access to excellent education (to high quality curricula, good teaching, support services, and facilities) for all students in all school districts."

"I believe it is time to dream together – to dream about education not for a lucky few but for all. And it is time to make the dream of education for all become fact."
– Dr. María "Cuca" Robledo Montecel,
IDRA Executive Director,
February 15, 2002

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[©2007, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Every effort has been made to maintain the content in its original form. However, accompanying charts and graphs may not be provided here. To receive a copy of the original article by mail or fax, please fill out our information request and feedback form. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]

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