We like to think of public education of our children as a pure science that is populated by people who are above the humdrum worries of life and live only for the joy of filling young minds with truth. But like anything else, schools do well or poorly largely driven by money. Now one of the justifications for government funding of schools is you take out of the educational process any graft or influence peddling by private interests. In theory if corporate interests or even wealthy individuals can influence the schools because of wealth, they could also dictate the curriculum and the “slant” the lessons might take and as such put a spin on the truth because the schools become dependent on the funding source.
So, again in theory, our public schools should be above funding issues because tax dollars should pay for everything so no one political or cultural influence can set the agenda of what is to be taught in school. But that concept only holds up in theory, of course. If you spend any time in association with pubic or private schools, you know that money and education are intimately intermingled and there is plenty of influence going on all the time.
Sports Program and Money
At the public level, sports is one of the big factors that drives public education, particularly at the high school level. In big cities, the high school sport teams are often feeder schools to colleges who have a vital financial interest in recruiting the best high school players. So money flows from professional sports to the colleges and even to high schools to influence schools to pour a lot of time and money into their sports programs. The intense rivalry and interest in high school sports in your town reflects that emphasis.
So what’s the problem with loving sports? Nothing except that very often large high schools will divert huge percentages of their budgets to the sports program that only serves a fraction of the students of the school and those funds are taken away from academic and arts programs which suffer as a result. So while a hundred boys might benefit from a well run football program, thousands of students suffer with smaller classes, inferior classroom equipment and underpaid teachers because the sports teams get all the attention and the money.
At the private level, money buys influence even more blatantly. While your tuition and fees do pay the basic bills of the school, private schools are entrepreneurial and ambitious so the more wealthy parents and parents who can put a lot of money into the school naturally find their way to the school board to make decisions about curriculum and the direction the school will take as an educational institution in the future.
Wealth and Education
This means that well meaning parents who are not wealthy are not able to help the school stay focused on their primary calling which is to bring the highest level of education to the student body. The situation can also be aggravated at both the public and private school level when corporate interests get involved and you see corporate sponsorships of school programs resulting in subtle advertising occurring all around the campus. It sends a message to the students that the school can and has been bought and those corporate interests can have an influence over curriculum as well.
As parents, it’s your job to monitor the extent to which funding changes the quality of education of a school. At the public school level, you can voice your concern at school board meetings or in other public venues. But the ultimate proactive way to get an education for your child that is not tainted by financial influence is to leave the public school setting and seek a private school that has not succumb to those temptations yet. If you fund such a school, get involved heavily and do all you can via fundraising to try to minimize the influence of wealthy individuals and corporations so the school that is there to serve your child can do so without the burden of influence from the ones that pay the bills.