Educational Inequality in America: Democrats Must Be Held Accountable

Educational inequality in America is a problem whose importance can not be understated. Democrats have made many promises of change, but have not delivered.

Isaac Bullwinkle, Opinion Editor

One of the most important factors to ensure a successful and happy future for children in the United States is education. The opportunity to learn should be one available to all children, despite their socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, or simply the affluence of the area in which they live. Despite this, educational inequality is still one of the most pressing issues in this country, and those in power, even in Democrat-controlled states, are not doing enough to address it. 

In the United States, school funding is largely controlled by the state government rather than the federal government. In many states, the amount of funding allocated to schools is essentially based on a combination of the property and income taxes of that school’s district. School districts whose property and income taxes raise a higher amount of money will receive more funding for their schools than districts with a lower amount of tax money raised. The students who need additional resources the most get the least funding, while students who need the least get the most. 

It gets worse. Because of this structure of resource allocation, rich people can essentially create a district around a concentration of wealth and that district will receive a large amount of  funding because it is only composed of wealthy people who live in expensive houses, an egregious example of this being in Cook county, Illinois.  

One of the largest and most populous counties in the country, Cook county houses 168 different school districts. One district, Oak Park-River Forest, which is home to one school which enrolls 3098 students, received $82 million in funding for fiscal year 2020. Directly south of this district is the Berwyn North district, which houses four schools and 3317 students. Berwyn North, which is a geographically significantly smaller district, received just $44 million in funding in fiscal year 2020. According to Zillow, the average property value in Oak Park is $445,492. In Berwyn? $278,455.

Race must be taken into consideration in this issue as well. Black and Hispanic students are disproportionately affected by educational inequality as they attend lower-income schools a startling 45% of the time, while white students attend lower-income schools just 8% of the time. This inadequacy in funding leads to tangible learning impacts on lower-income schools, with graduation rates for low-poverty schools being 23% higher than that of high-poverty schools. Minority students are being set up to fail, and those in power are not doing anything close to enough to change that. 

Both the executive and legislative branches of the Illinois state legislature are controlled by Democrats. The Governor of Illinois, JB Pritzker, is a Democrat. In their 2020 Party Platform, Democrats wrote “it is the government’s responsibility to ensure that every child, everywhere, is able to receive a world-class education that enables them to lead meaningful lives, no matter their race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion, disability status, language status, immigration or citizenship status, household income or ZIP code.” And yet Democrats in power in Illinois aren’t doing anything to change the system that directly contradicts their “platform.” This issue cannot be blamed on Republicans, it is simply pure inaction and hypocrisy on the part of the Democrats.

The burden of inducing actual change does not just rest on the shoulders of politicians. It also rests on those who are fortunate enough to be a part of affluent communities who can fight for the people who don’t have a voice to those in power. For too long the sentiment of upper-middle class liberals has been “I believe in X policy, but it doesn’t work in my neighborhood for Y reason.” If we want to create actual change, this must end.