Research Proposal: Relationship Between School Funding in Urban and Rural School Districts

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School Funding in Urban and Rural School Districts

Tax Base and Funding

School financing is mainly carried out by a number of state owned institutions. These institutions use several methods of not only collecting funds but also distributing them. Major institutions involved in school financing include both the federal and state governments together with county as well as, other transitional elements of the government. These transitional elements include the municipal government as well as the school board (Michael and Tyll, 2004). Educational funds are collected mainly from:

Local property taxes,

Local lottery systems, and

The distribution of education bonds

The funds are distributed in four different but interconnected ways:

Giving categorical and block grants,

General state aid,

State-reimbursement for local spending and Transfers from civic governments to local school boards.

Furthermore, the local school boards, at the district level, are responsible for (1) increasing the taxes and (2) managing the utilization of funds. Such an authority inescapably prompts and induces a number of legal questions (Michael and Tyll, 2004). These questions can be broadly divided into 2 categories:

The first question is purely financial and raises questions related to taxes as well as utilization of educational funds at the district level (Michael and Tyll, 2004).

The second on is founded on educational equity, as well as, adequacy and examines inequalities in:

Per student expenses;

Costs of tuition, books and stationary;

The district school-board's legal-rights to utilize public funds for a particular educational activity; and the quality of education given to students in these public schools and its influence on student achievement (Michael and Tyll, 2004).

Disparities in Funding

As mentioned above, in the United States educational programs in schools are financed primarily by the local property taxes. This state-based tax system is mainly responsible for producing funding differences between the rich and poor districts. For instance, school operating in the rich New York districts acquire almost $14,000 per student annually and those operating in poor districts acquire $9,000 per student annually. Furthermore, this method not only produces funding inequalities between rich and poor districts, it also is responsible for funding disparities between states. For case in point, schools in New Jersey acquire nearly $9,000 per student annually, whereas schools operating in Utah acquire approximately $4,000 per student annually (Biddle & Berliner, 2002).

The school funding disparity is more deeply studied by Azzam (2005) who reviewed the total amount of money each school district received during the fiscal year 2001/02. He concludes, "It comes as no surprise that the majority of states provided fewer dollars per student to their highest-poverty school districts than to their lowest-poverty school districts and that most states have funding gaps between the schools that have the most minority students and those that have the fewest" (Azzam, p. 93). He asserts that states have got to close the funding gap between the rich and the poor districts in order to close the achievement gap. The tax-based funding system needs to be thoroughly reviewed and appropriate changes should be made to achieve that end (Azzam, 2005). It is clear that without making drastic and immediate changes in the school funding formula, very little can be done to close the achievement gap between not just the rich and poor districts but also the rich and poor states.

Economic Resources/Wealth and Funding

Bronfenbrenner (1986) documented many areas of research that discuss the impact of economics on child development. He writes that finances affect children in their home, in their interactions with family members, at school, and in their neighborhood play area. Communities can suffer tremendous economic stresses when a local business closes, or relocates to take advantage of lower wage costs in another country. These events can impact school district funding as well as student's families. Socioeconomic status and availability of resources greatly impact the decision-making processes of students (Chapman, 1981; Conklin & Dailey, 1981; Hossler, Schmit, & Vesper, 1999; Stage & Hossler, 1989). Socioeconomic status dictates:

Educational choices (i.e., which school children attend),

The availability of certain peers,

Limit or permit access to health services, and Influence a host of other social contexts (e.g., church, daycare, recreational activities, etc.).

On a broader level, family income and the economic resources also impacts the choice of parents' friends, neighbors, coworkers, and the availability of media, legal, and social services. Entire cultures or subcultures are influenced by economic resources in the expectations and accepted standards of living that are made available to members (Chapman, 1981; Conklin & Dailey, 1981; Hossler, Schmit, & Vesper, 1999; Stage & Hossler, 1989). It is important to note here that besides the economy, the culture of both the family and the neighborhood has influence on the developing persons. We may come together to form one society, yet we maintain different cultures -- ethnic, religious, and national. Bourdieu (1999) asserts that the force of the dominant culture in communicating conflicting messages to families of other cultures can create crises of identity in children. Haller and Virkler (1993) agree that cultural message of ideological support that is available for families in the dominant culture can be one of cultural approval or disapproval for developing persons. Bronfenbrenner (2001) stresses that children are affected by their culture through the communication of beliefs and customs parents receive from other structures in the mesosystem and exosystem. Haller and Virkler (1993) suggest that adolescents aspire to what they know or can imagine (p. 171). Due to the lack of role models and career diversity, the achievements of rural youth are limited by geographical and cultural context of their communities. Quaglia and Cobb (1996) state, "…expectations and standards of the group significantly impact the aspirations of its members regardless of their level of achievement motivation. This tendency is more pronounced in the more isolated culture" (p.129).

Contrast between Poor and Affluent Neighborhoods

The rich neighborhoods acquire more educational funds per student than poor neighborhoods. This funding dilemma should be attributed to the poor and wretched educational leadership, which pays little attention to this issue. Biddle & Berliner (2002) points out that funding disparity can be seen in the school facilities, curriculum and instructional apparatus, school building, teacher qualification and experience, student teacher ratio, student-class ratio, presence of secondary support staff and additional resources. They further articulate that while the general public is in favor of equity and equality through the public education system, they are by and large unaware of the funding dilemma and therefore accept the abuse from this unfair system (Biddle & Berliner, 2002).

The present education funding system has been put in place by several historical forces and events. Ramirez (2002) in his study points out that the funding gap became evident when rapid industrialization started and with it rapid urbanization. Ellwood Cubberley of Columbia was the first scholar to take note of this funding gap and expose it to the general public in the early 20TH century. As we enter the twenty-first century, the global economic development has a great impact on even individual countries and the gap between the rich and the poor neighborhoods is more evident today than ever before. Furthermore, the advances in technology and the structural changes in the world today means that simply graduating from high school is no longer enough for both males and females to lead meaningful and productive lives. Even a four-year college degree in today's society does not necessarily guarantee job and/or financial security (Hossler, Schmit, & Vesper, 1999; Stage & Hossler, 1989). As a consequence of the dynamic changes, high economic return and employment opportunities have become a source of cut throat competition amongst the world labor market. Hence, the need to close the gap between the rich and poor neighborhoods is more important today than ever before.

Parents' expectations about their children's educational achievements are directly related to their social status and their location. Cobb, McIntire, and Pratt (1989) report that the availability and trend of the labor markets in rural and non-rural communities differ, and these markets influence individuals' occupational achievements and that occupational objectives shape the educational goals. Cobb, McIntire, and Pratt further account that rural youth believe that their parents are more supportive of them taking full time jobs, attending vocational schools, or joining the service rather than going to a school to acquire full-time education.

Population Density and Location

A number of researchers point out that students from poor rural and urban districts perform less well than students from rich suburban districts (Broomhall and Johnson, 1994; Broomhall, 1993; DeYoung, 1985). These researchers believe that the present funding disparity is responsible for this achievement gap (Mulkey, 1993; McDowell, et al., 1992; Jansen, 1991; Reeder, 1989; and DeYoung, 1985). However, another group of researcher believes that student achievement is dependent mainly upon population density and location (Broomhall and Johnson, 1994; and Hanson and Ginsburg, 1988). These researchers argue that achievement gap differs by location because educational aspirations of parents, students and teachers differ by location. In the rural areas, for instance, limited economic activity and fewer opportunities tempt… [END OF PREVIEW]

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