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Educating All Kids: Funding Matters

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Lea Ann Atherton is a 2013-14 Hope Street Group Fellow and teaches writing at Lone Oak Middle School in Paducah's McCracken County.

A school principal once told me that the children in our building deserved an equal or better education than they would receive anywhere else. That is also true for each child in our state regardless of the demographics of the county in which he or she lives. Money plays a substantial role in the opportunities that each of our students has to learn and while we may like to deny it, that varies greatly from school to school and district to district.

I used to teach in Carlisle County where, the elementary school is almost unusable. There are no walls between classrooms, and that structure alone impedes learning. There are leaks, mold and effects of age. Things are constantly breaking or causing situations that would require students to be out of the building. When children and teachers are in class, morale is low, pride in the facility is decreased, and education is affected. When school officials are spending more time dealing with maintenance issues than instructional improvement, something clearly needs to be done.

Beyond the facility, students in small districts like Carlisle are denied many of the opportunities given to those in larger areas simply because the money is not there. I am talking about music programs, sports and higher-level college preparatory classes. The stakes are higher than ever to be college- and career-ready, and without these opportunities, students may fall short simply because of where they live.

There is more teacher turnover in the less funded districts. There are often fewer effective teachers in classrooms. The best teachers want to go where the pay is better, and the average teachers lack the support to improve, as professional development is often skipped simply because it is too expensive.

Don't get me wrong. The large districts have needs as well. In my classroom, space is the most limited resource. Daily supplies have been denied to teachers so often that many don't even ask anymore. They simply dig into their own pockets to provide what is needed for students.

There is a funding crisis everywhere, but if we are looking to improve conditions of all students equally in the state, small rural districts might need to receive the first check. Children in these areas deserve an equal or better education in their schools. Without the proper funding, this may never be the reality.

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