NPR ran an excellent story about the perennial debate: Can More Money Fix America’s Schools?

 

The show interviews those who say that money doesn’t make a difference; what matters is how money is spent, not how much is spent.

 

It also interviews those who say that low-income districts are inadequately funded because of property taxes.

 

It begins like this:

 

This winter, Jameria Miller would often run to her high school Spanish class, though not to get a good seat.

 

She wanted a good blanket.

 

“The cold is definitely a distraction,” Jameria says of her classroom’s uninsulated, metal walls.

 

Her teacher provided the blankets. First come, first served. Such is life in the William Penn School District in an inner-ring suburb of Philadelphia.

 

The hardest part for Jameria, though, isn’t the cold. It’s knowing that other schools aren’t like this.

 

Before her family moved closer to the city, where they could afford more living space, she attended the more affluent Upper Moreland district, which is predominantly white and, according to state and local records, spends about $1,200 more per student than William Penn.

 

That difference adds up, Jameria says, to better buildings, smaller class sizes, take-home textbooks and less teacher turnover.

 

“It’s never going to be fair,” she says, comparing her life now to her former classmates. “They’re always going to be a step ahead of us. They’ll have more money than us, and they’ll get better jobs than us, always.”

 

Critics of school spending like to point to the high spending in some low-income districts and say that the test scores didn’t go up. But what if students had heated buildings, a school nurse, a hot lunch, a librarian, and other such things that affluent districts take for granted? What if their test scores didn’t go up, but the schools were doing a better job of meeting their immediate needs as human beings?

 

This is a balanced and thought-provoking discussion.