An opinion piece by By Chad Aldeman
How should public policies address inequities across schools and districts? American Federation of Teacher President Randi Weingarten says we hold schools accountable for how much money they have and the types of programs they build with that money. Testifying before the Senate in February, she articulated her vision for accountability systems:
Accountability systems should measure and reflect this broader vision of learning by using a framework of indicators for school success centered on academic outcomes, opportunity to learn, and engagement and support. For example, the AFT recommends academic outcomes measured by assessments, progress toward graduation, and career and college readiness. Opportunity-to-learn indicators should include curriculum access and participation, sufficient resources, and measures of school climate.
Yesterday Weingarten testified again in front of the Senate, this time against a proposed rule that would address funding disparities within districts. The proposed rule, called "supplement not supplant," would require districts to spend at least as much money on poor students as they do on non-poor students. (For more on the proposed rule and the politics behind it, read this Kevin Carey primer.) Weingarten spoke out against the rule in a piece last month, writing:
ESSA specifically outlines the difference in spending between schools that receive federal Title I funds - schools with high concentrations of students in poverty - and those that don't. But when it comes to equitable spending, you don't want to insist on a dollar-for-dollar comparison.
Taken together, Weingarten is arguing we should hold schools accountable for resource equity, but not actually take any steps to alleviate funding inequities within a district.
Weingarten is not alone in this position. Here's National Education Association President Lily Eskelson Garcia speaking to NPR about her vision for accountability:
But we also pushed on. ... You left out of this thing called accountability that the politicians should be held accountable for actually giving an educator what he or she needs to do his or her job.
That was what 1965 and [the Elementary and Secondary Education Act] was all about. It was an acknowledgement that states weren't doing a very good job on equal opportunity. The extra resources have been left out of the whole accountability debate....
On this dashboard, we want you to have to measure service and supports.
Who has access to that AP class and who doesn't even have access to recess?
Who's got a school nurse? Where are the services and the broad range of programs that a child should have, like the arts, like foreign languages?
How would a school purchase all these services, supports, AP programs, nurses, etc.? Goods and services costs money, but, like Weingarten, Garcia doesn't want to address within-district disparities either. Education Week live-tweeted Garcia's testimony at the same Senate hearing yesterday: