There is no question about the inequity of public education funding, a form of discrimination that further handicaps the poor. The National Coalition of Advocates for Students has done a service in assembling the evidence of this problem and appealing for equity.
Some may be tempted to write the coalition off as extremist because of the assertion by a coalition co-chairman that "state and local financing of schools adds up to a conspiracy to spend more money on rich kids and less money on poor kids." There is no evidence of a conspiracy in the usual sense of that word. But events have conspired to produce a situation that is widening the gap between the poor and the affluent.
Two matters are at stake. The inequity itself cries for solution. And, in the long term, the consequences of the inequity on the social and economic fabric of the nation must be recognized as dangerously debilitating, affecting the lives and well being of all Americans--not just those in the ghetto and the barrio.
The absence of leadership on this issue from President Reagan--indeed, his deliberate effort to disengage the federal government from education--has worsened the situation. But the blame needs to be shared by every state, for not one has devised a system to correct the inequities of a failed financial base for schools--a base that makes inevitable a mediocrity of programs and facilities in many of the schools serving the poor. An absence of public commitment, of public recognition of the consequences of this discriminatory program, has resulted in funding patterns that discriminate, as the report asserts, by race, class and sex, and that provide inadequate support for early childhood education despite proof of its effectiveness as a highly cost-effective remedy.