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20161005TRRT AllisonWang .pdf


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3.3 Why Democracy Did Not Prevent Corruption

20

| The Rock River Times | RockRiverTimes.com | October 5-11, 2016

The system of democratically elected school board members fails to prevent potential

Commentary

conflicts of interests from weakening public education and student performance. The failure is
due to a difference in the demographics of the district’s student population and the demographics

Can democracy hurt public education?
of the district’s voting constituents, as seen in Figure 10.

By Allison Wang
Guest Contributor

Demographics of RPS205 
Student Body

T

his school year starts with encouraging news. Rockford Public Schools
(RPS205) will benefit from an extra
$6.5 million from state. This money came to
RPS because of the high poverty rate and low
percentage of students meeting the minimum state academic readiness standard.
Thank you State Senator Steve Stadelman
and State Representative Litesa Wallace for
working hard for us on education! Now it is
up to the school district to decide how to use
this extra funding.
I hope that RPS205 decides to directly use
this extra $6.5 million from state for children’s learning. With $6.5 million, 40 reading specialists could be hired for three years
in elementary schools. Textbooks could be
purchased. Classroom sizes reduced. The
possibilities are endless.
Because in the end, public education
in Rockford needs change. Back in 2005,
3rd grade reading tests from Lewis Lemon
Elementary School were the second best in
the entire district (after the gifted program)
and were so impressive that The New York
Times reported it. This school was 85 percent
low-income. Now in 2016, only 6 percent of
students in this school meet the minimum
state standard. What happened in the last ten
years? And what can we do in the next ten
years to help these students to their potential?
Looking at our public education in Rockford, Auburn High School had 815 incoming
freshmen in 2010. Four years later, only
299 students graduated. What happened to
those 500 students? What is the cost to our
neighborhoods? What could be have done to
prevent them from dropping out?
Instead of cutting tutors and reading
specialists, why not hire more? A former
Rockford principal stated, “Basically, what
you’re going to do is sentence a child to a life
of poverty because you’re never going to give
some of the most vulnerable kids the tools to
become self-reliant.”
Poor educational performance is often

Demographics of
Rockford

4%

15%
36%

28%

3%

White 36%

White 62%

Black 32%

Black 20%

Hispanic 28%
Asian 4%

20%

62%

Hispanic 15%
Asian 3%

32%
Difference
the demographics
RPS205 studentsof
and
citizens of
Rockford.and
Datacitizens
were taken
the Illinois
State
Figure
10. in
Difference
in theofdemographics
RPS205
students
offrom
Rockford.
Data
District Report Card and 2010 Census Data. Author Provided
was taken from the Illinois State District Report Card and 2010 Census Data (Illinois State
Boardto of
Education,
2014;
U.S. Census
Bureau,
2010).
family income is linked with student perforby the majority
voters’
wish.
attributed
a lack
of district funding
from

But, what happens when the public is dras- mance, institutional corruption is a crucial
property taxes, which is why federal and state
co-factor hurting our public education.
tically different from the students? In Rockgrant programs have offered supplemental
awarding
contracts to
family
relatives
ambiguous,
it provides
Regardless
of whetherfunding
you send your chilford,
district students
andis
theethically
city population
funds, such asWhile
federal Title
I grants directed
are very different demographically. Also, the
toward helping disadvantaged students. But,
dren to public schools or private schools, we
composition
of the school
board has
been by the
in Illinois,
there is no significant
relationship
all spend
a lotechelon
of money on
to construction
companies
and other
businesses,
primarily
owned
upper
ofeducation, whether
predominately white and upper-middle class. it be out of pocket to a private school or tax
between funding and student performance,
Is the disparity between the city and district
indicating that we cannot merely blame the
dollars to public schools. Quality public schools
poor performance of our schools on our high students part of the problem? Can this
benefit everyone in the long run. Statistics have
disparity have an impact on students? While
poverty rates or the amount of money we
shown that better public education reduces
money spent on construction diverts funding crime rates. Real estate value goes hand in hand
receive from the state.
away from students, it boosts the local
The true problem lies in how funding is
with public school quality. There is no doubt
economy, thereby benefiting the electorate
used by the school district. In FY16, RPS205
Rockford Public Schools has a challenging job
and city. This leads to a divergence away
spent over $22 million on construction; yet,
to stay lean and efficient in today’s economy
from the purpose of public education. This is
in the same year, the number of reading spewith bonds amounting to hundreds of millions
cialists was reduced by half and textbook pur- essentially institutional corruption, an idea
of dollars issued during the past four years. We
chases were postponed indefinitely. Is this the which posits that corruption is not caused by
are eager to see that Rockford Public Schools
a lack of morals but rather systemic failures
right place to place our priorities? This is just
will choose to use this extra $6.5 million from
that cause good people to do bad things.
one example of the impact of the allocation
state directly on students’ learning to revitalize
This is the unintended repercussion of deof funds. At one elementary school, teachers
public education.
mocracy in public education, since demochave said that they needed doors that lock
Allison Wang is a high school student pursuand more bathrooms. Yet, the school received racy is how the school board is elected. After
ing a research project on budgeting inefficiencies
examining the data from the twenty largest
a cafeteria and gym addition and no doors or
in K-12 public education. Along with long time
Illinois municipalities and their respective
bathrooms. Did this help the kids?
community volunteers, Allison will present their
school districts, we found that a greater
Since school boards are the ones to ultiresearch paper, “Danger of Democracy: Effect
difference between the demographics of the
mately decide how to distribute funding, the
of deepening divides between voter and student
municipality and that of the students is linked demographics on student performance,” at the
conundrum becomes who are elected and
to lower student performance, even after cor- Annual Conference of the Mid-Western Educahow. “One person, one vote” is the fundarecting for the effect of socially disadvantaged tional Research Association. The paper received
mental ideology of modern election. It is
students. In other words, while students’
sound that all public affairs should be settled
the highest score from the blind peer-reviews.


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