Ensure Equal Opportunity in Public Education for Disadvantaged Students

Target: US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, US President Barack Obama, US Congress Members

Goal: Ensure equal opportunity in public education by closing salary disparities between rich and poor neighborhoods.

According to the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (USDOE OCR), “Children who need the most too often get the least. It’s a civil rights issue, an economic security issue, and a moral issue.” Federal statistics now back up what educational advocacy groups such as the Center for American Progress and the Educational Trust have said for years: disadvantaged students across the country do not share equal access to a rigorous education, experienced teachers, early education, or school counselors. However, given the pre-eminence of teacher quality on student learning—Stanford economist Eric Hanushek found that teacher effects dwarfed both school environment and class size—the inequitable distribution of quality teachers in American schools is a pernicious violation of minority and indigent children’s civil rights.

America must ensure equal opportunity in public education for disadvantaged students. President Obama’s goal that the United States achieves the highest college completion rate in the world by 2020 hinges on an equitable distribution of effective teachers. However, persistent spending disparities drastically undermine the educational services in schools with the highest concentrations of minority students. Teachers in schools that serve the top quintile of African American and Latino students are paid approximately $2,500 less per year than the average teacher in the same districts, and 59% of school districts showed these salary disparities. Given the challenging nature of these high-poverty communities of color, it makes sense to institute salary policies which attract and retain the most qualified master teachers for our students with the greatest needs. Instead, district funding schemes systematically push the greenest teachers with the least amount of preparation into these difficult teaching assignments.

Politically and educationally, the salary gap mirroring the achievement gap is a grave injustice. The OCR data demonstrates hefty gaps in spending between schools that serve more students of color than those that serve fewer such students. This diminishes the spirit of Title I funding designs, the federal program for disadvantaged students. In order to get Title I allocations, school districts must show that local spending between high- and low-poverty schools are equal. Ironically, even though teacher salaries make up about 60% of a typical school district’s budget, districts are currently allowed to exempt salary differentials from these calculations. This “comparability… [provision]… in essence paper[s] over these pay disparities,” allowing districts to retain their Title I funds while shortchanging the most disadvantaged students. Closing the “comparability” loophole not only addresses the disparity in educational access, it also promotes a stronger workforce for America’s economic future. The United States should not tolerate such a gross injustice in resource allocation for our poorest and most disadvantaged students. Americans must hold districts accountable for equitable local and per-pupil spending among poverty-stricken and more affluent schools.

We exhort the US Department of Education, Obama administration, and members of Congress to change the Title I rules to include teacher salary differentials and relevant resource allocation calculations among the requirements to receive such coveted federal funds. Equal access to quality education is a civil right, an economic right, and a human right for the best possible development of our youth and future.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Secretary Duncan, President Obama, and US Congress Members:

Ensure equal opportunity in public education for disadvantaged students. President Obama’s ambitious goal that the United States achieves the highest college completion rate in the world by 2020 hinges on an equitable distribution of effective teachers. However, teachers in schools that serve the top quintile of African American and Latino students are paid approximately $2,500 less per year than the average teacher in the same districts, and 59% of school districts showed these salary disparities. In order to combat the greater challenges of these high-poverty communities of color, Congress should institute salary policies which attract and retain the most qualified master teachers for our students with greatest need.

The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights data demonstrates hefty gaps in spending between schools that serve more students of color than those that serve fewer such students. This fact flies in the face of Title I program intentions for disadvantaged students, which requires school districts to show that local spending between high- and low-poverty schools are equal before disbursing federal allocations. Since teacher salaries make up about 60% of a typical school district’s budget, districts should never be allowed to exempt salary differentials from these calculations, “in essence papering over these pay disparities.” The United States cannot tolerate such a gross injustice in resource allocation for our poorest and most disadvantaged students. Americans must hold districts accountable for equitable local and per-pupil spending among poverty-stricken and more affluent schools.

We exhort the US Department of Education, Obama administration, and members of Congress to change the Title I rules to include teacher salary differentials and other relevant resource allocation calculations among the requirements to receive such coveted federal funds. Equal access to quality education is a civil right, an economic right, and a human right for the best possible development of our youth and future.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Appears Here]

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46 Signatures

  • Nikki Owen
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