In June of this year, I learned that New York City's Mayor Adams was planning to cut public school funding, which, considering our already underfunded school system, was an extremely bad decision. My school’s budget was cut by 16%, and there was a threat of losing teachers and our beloved band program. I wrote a petition which was signed by seventy-five kids in my school in just one afternoon; I sent it to local politicians and newspapers and attended a rally in protest of the cuts. Many people did things like this, and much more. However, despite the efforts of teachers, students, and parents, schools still lost the little they had left. My school lost its band program — one of only two extracurricular activities we had. We used to have two music teachers, but now some grades are without music class because we have only one teacher for such a large school. However, even this is lucky compared to other schools, which might not have any music teachers.
This is just one example of the many injustices schools in New York City and many other cities experience — and most of these challenges fall upon public schools in poor neighborhoods. In wealthy neighborhoods, it’s possible for parents to fundraise, so the cuts don’t have much effect. However, in poor neighborhoods, parents cannot afford to do the same. Wealthy parents are willing and able to donate and organize fundraisers so that their children can be educated in a comfortable environment; however, not all parents are able to do this.
In the United States, the quality of public schools varies based on students’ family wealth: a school full of rich kids will have arts programs, sports, and small classes. A school full of poor kids will be lucky to have even acceptable conditions — besides good teachers and a wide range of activities, the school needs money for things like air conditioning, heating, and sanitary bathrooms. Many wealthy parents, too, will send their children to private schools. So, while much money is pushed towards private schools, public schools are left in a predicament. However, the government also doesn’t provide schools with enough money — this year, for example, New York City’s Mayor Adams claimed that he was “weaning schools off the pandemic money” (though COVID is still not over), and that schools didn’t need so much money because many students were leaving the schools. But this seems counterintuitive: students are less likely to come back to public schools if the schools’ budget is reduced; they can find a private school or wealthy suburban public school that is able to provide them with more than their old one.
In much of the United States, schools also get money from property taxes. What this means is that if you live in a rich neighborhood, you are more likely to have a better school because the many people that live there own expensive homes and pay high property taxes. Because people that live in poor areas are often poor themselves, their schools are consequently underfunded. If students are provided with supplies and good learning conditions, they will do better academically — but where will this money come from? Many students in lower-income neighborhoods need counselors and therapists, but hiring someone like that is a luxury usually only available in schools with more money. And, though students in poor neighborhoods may need more individual attention because they have fewer resources at home, their classes are usually much larger than in schools in wealthy neighborhoods.
It’s outrageous that the kids who really need extracurriculars (like music, art, theater, phys ed, after-school sports, and a variety of clubs) don’t get them, but the people that can afford lessons outside of school have everything. Basically, schools are given “just enough” to show that the government cares — and most schools get even less. But why are the resources given to schools calculated in this way? Why can’t we have more, which is what we deserve? We could be discovering more and more talent — because talent isn’t just something you’re born with, it’s a skill that you get better at. But so many people don’t have the chance to get better at anything because they don’t have enough money. For them, school becomes a babysitting system, designed to turn students into low-wage workers. These students will never discover what else they could be. The fact that politicians think that this is acceptable shows that they don’t consider education important at all. Quality education is a right, not a luxury. The common cry for working people’s rights is: “we want bread, and roses, too!” Well, we want math — and band, too.