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Education With a Price Tag

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Is education a right or a privilege? In America, basic K-12 education is something we take for granted. Legally, the U.S. government is required to provide education for everyone through high school. However, not everyone is granted access to an equal quality education. The schooling systems are unequal in many ways. The more money a parent can invest in their child the better education they receive. If you aren’t lucky enough to buy your education this is where you have a disadvantage. Fixing this problem is important but we first need to become more aware of it. 

Public schools are how we can spread education throughout America. Public schools are state-funded allowing for students of lower-class, who can’t afford private school, to get a basic education. According to one study by the National Center for Education for Education Statistics, the problem with this is that “low class puts children behind from the start.” In addition, the authors state that “Race and ethnicity compound that disadvantage, largely due to factors also related to social class.’ In this study, it tested low to high-income children in kindergarten. Children with higher socioeconomic status had a greater advantage than those of a lower one and therefore received higher reading and math scores at the beginning. These results were also interconnected with the race of the children. The two factors are largely connected in that socioeconomic status tend to follow a trend with race. These studies were done on young children and highlight the importance of quality and equal education, especially at this age.

Many children have a disadvantage and are behind others in school at such a young age due to their parent’s income. Not only that but as the children grow older the inequality grows larger and more apparent. A podcast, “Three miles” dramatizes the inequality faced by high schoolers in public and private schools. In it is the story of two schools three miles apart in Bronx, New York came together. Of the two schools, one was private, privately paid for by parents, and the other public, state-funded. The public school, University Heights High School visited the private one, Fieldstone High School, and a sudden realization came over all the students. Lisa Greenbaum, a teacher at University Heights High School, stated that “They couldn't believe the campus. They felt like everyone was looking at them. And one of the students started screaming and crying. Like, this is unfair.” It is known that the students of Fieldstone High School will become influential people in the future because of the opportunities that their high school education has provided them, but the students of University Heights High School would never be given the same chances.  This inequality was such a shock that it completely changed the life of one student, Melanie. The students that came from University Heights High School were shocked, angry, and even horrified at how much nicer the higher income school was. One student, Melanie, had freaked out over the apparent injustice and ran away. Much time had been spent looking for her and years later when they had found her she had a lot to say. She describes her time there as sitting in a “sea of white, blonde, blue-green eyes.” This connects back to the inequality of low class and race being connected as seen in the study of kindergarteners. The lack of people that looked like her concerned Melanie and made her even more aware of the already apparent inequality. She then made the rationalization that “this is not free. This is not available for kids of color.” Which is what private school really is.

The advantages of the private school are abundant and low-income children are being excluded from these opportunities. Private schools offer a wider variety of courses, a greater ratio of teachers to students, and better connections to colleges. This is all due to the price tag on private schools. Where public schools are free and funded by local taxes, private schools can cost up to 60,000 dollars. Statistics done by the National Center for Education Statistics states that it costs about 12,000 dollars to send a child to public school, but this does not stop private schools from grossly increasing prices of tuition. This makes it so that in a private school there can be fewer students in the classroom allowing teachers to put more focus on the individual student.  It also allows teachers to take on more course load and teach a greater amount of classes. The tuition money although doesn’t just go into the education aspect. The schools have nicer facilities, better extracurricular activities, and connections to colleges and prestigious internship opportunities. All of this is not something that everyone has a right to. This is a privilege and if a student was born lucky enough they will inherit this privilege from their parent.

Public schools, however, aren’t necessarily bad schools. They are state-funded in turn providing limited resources. There are fewer teachers spread over larger amounts of students and money must go into education, not facilities due to this lack of funding, Students must rely on their own accord to get into a good college, not their schools' name. This puts public school children at yet another disadvantage compared to private school children. Two children who have the same grades, same extracurricular activities, and same SAT scores. The child from a well-known school with connections is more likely to get accepted into a better college, because of their high school, and their money. These differences are hard to recognize when living in each different situation, but they do however become very apparent when the light has been shed on them. Public and private schools are almost like two different worlds. And this is what is concerning.  

We have to work to fix the problem of inequality in education. There are many things people propose to do like raising the incomes of households by increasing wedges or allowing for more financial aid in private schools. I think that it would be beneficial to start integrating schools at a young age. By doing this there is less of a disadvantage to one class or race than the other. By decreasing the costs of private schools so they can become more reachable to lower-income students and allowing more financial aid will allow for a more accessible higher education standard. Public schools also need to be better funded so that they can gain advantages that private schools have. The hiring of more teachers so that public school can focus more on the individual student is important. 

The public and private schooling systems are on two different worlds. What we have to do is redraw the lines set by society and the people before us and make higher education a right, not a privilege like it currently is. We are all people, students are all students. Why should one small difference like income dictate a person’s right to access education?

 

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