It wasn’t until this school year
It wasn’t until this school year, as I became a member of my school’s Equity Team, that I was exposed to and truly started to understand the difference between equality and equity. I am a very visual learner, and strongly feel that the image above is a brilliant pictorial representation of the difference between equality and equity. The caption beneath “Equality” goes on to state that “equality is about sameness, as it promotes fairness and justice by giving everyone the same thing.” However, it can only work IF everyone starts from the same place, which is represented in the picture, as showing that equality only works if everyone is the same height. The caption beneath “Equity” goes on to state that “equity is about fairness, it’s about making sure people get access to the same opportunities.” Occasionally, our differences and/ or history can create barriers to participation, so we must FIRST ensure equity, BEFORE we can enjoy equality. When all is said and done, “educational equity stands at the center of our nation’s growing effort to reform and improve public schools, and provide greater educational opportunities to every family.”
In order to close the achievement gap, it is more than giving everyone access to the same resources. The truth of the matter is that some students still need more to get there. Data shows that mostly students who come from low-income families, and students of color, who may sometimes fall in both categories, tend to come to school lagging academically. These are factors outside of a school’s control, so giving those students the same exact resources as those students in higher-income neighborhoods alone, will not close the achievement gap. Therefore, a policy needs to be put in place that gives more funding for poorer schools than they do for more affluent schools. After all, shouldn’t students who attend school in low-income neighborhoods, as well as, students of color have access to exceptional teachers and the funding to provide them with the high-quality education that they not only deserve, but that they need to succeed? Why should students suffer for factors that are out of their control? “Equality has become synonymous with ‘leveling the playing field,’ so let’s make equity synonymous with ‘more for those who need it’ (Mann, 2014).”
In order to petition the state to provide more funding for poorer schools, than they do for more affluent schools, I would start by following the three approaches discussed in the Fowler text, as this is a whole new process to me. The three general approaches to influencing policy formulation and adoption are government relations, working through professional organizations, and “lobbying.” Fowler (2013, pg. 197) stated that, “Skillful education leaders use all three, building a strong foundation of solid relationships with other public officials, participating in and networking through professional organizations, and ‘lobbying’ by contacting officials about specific bills or rules, as necessary.” Fowler goes on to say that most leaders tend to neglect the first two approaches, hence the reason why most legislators view educators as whiners who only show up when they need money.
The first approach to petitioning the state to provide more funding for poorer schools is “influence through building relationships.” Relationships are built through regular, two-way communication. Figures 8.5. and 8.6 (Fowler, pg. 199) were helpful visuals in figuring out “officials to consider including in a government relations program,” and “ways to communicate with public officials and involve them in schools.” As a result, I would definitely reach out to the Mayor, City Council Member, Representative and Senator in State Legislature, County Executive and Commissioner, Congressional Representative, Selected Officials in State Department of Education and Federal Agencies, Local Judges, Supreme Court Justices who live in the area, etc. The ways I would provide information to them would be through the school district or school directory, the district or school newsletter, the district’s legislative agenda, and newspaper clippings about special school or district programs and events. I would receive communication from them at town hall meetings, legislative hearings, political receptions and dinners, and at their speaking engagements in the area. I would involve them in schools by arranging school visits, inviting them to attend a special school or district function, inviting them to a school open house, inviting them to speak to faculty, the district leadership team, the school board retreat, a class, and so forth, and ask them to present awards to students at graduation or an awards ceremony. Building these relationships is key in helping to influence policy development, and “represents a sound investment of money and time.” The bottom line is that legislators will make laws with or without you, but better ones with you!