Education ‘equity’?

[by a Pittsburgh Colfax teacher in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 3, 2012]

The new Pittsburgh Public Schools’ budget includes some creative writing in an attempt to put a good spin on a bad situation. By using the term “equity,” in relation to instruction in music, art and library services, the district attempts to make the cuts in these areas look like gains.

Here is what it looks like to me: Imagine 60 children: 20 children receive three healthy meals a day, plus two snacks; 30 children receive two well-balanced meals a day; 10 children are starving. In the name of equity, we are now going to give all 60 children one bowl of soup a day. It is true that now no one starves. All will survive, but none will thrive.

Ideally, we should raise all the children to the highest level. In these hard financial times, that is not possible. But instead of taking everyone down to the lowest sustainable level possible, we should at least try for a middle ground.

It can hardly be called “equitable” when K-5 and K-8 schools will have a librarian for one day a week — whether that school has 250 or 650 students. It is not “equitable” to expect one music teacher in a school of 700 students to teach both general and instrumental music. That may work in smaller schools, but not in larger ones.

Perhaps the district should change its motto to “Equity for All” — because “Excellence for All” cannot be achieved until we resolve to academically nourish all of our children.

Jane McKee

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