There is currently a large call throughout the nation to reallocate money that is currently being spent on law enforcement and invest it in programs that build communities. But will removing funding from police really impact things like education?
Defunding Police Explained
“It’s complicated and it’s contextual,” says Frank Gettridge, the Executive Director of National Public Education Support Fund (NSEF), an organization whose mission is to “to promote the opportunity for all children to receive an excellent education from birth through college and career.”
Gettridge cautions that funding issues vary based on community and school district. However, nationally, statistics reflect a continued decrease in funding for programs like Title I and Head Start that are geared toward lower-income kids and families, many of whom are minorities. “There’s been an increase in funding for policing, even before this, but there’s decreasing in funding for education, particularly public education,” Gettridge tells Parentology.
The National Education Association reported a $33 billion dollar deficit in the full funding of Title I in 2017. Additionally, programs like Head Start, a proven early childhood education program, have struggled for funding. It’s estimated that they are only serving about half of the children in need.
Conversely, funding for law enforcement has been on the rise. The idea behind divesting is that funds once allocated to police would now be allocated to initiatives that positively impact black and brown communities, like education, mental health services, housing, and job initiatives.
While it’s important to follow the money and the funding within your community, experts agree that simply moving funds will not solve the education issue.
“Reforming policing in and of itself will not solve our education issues,” Gettridge states. Because educational funding is largely based on property taxes, it’s no surprise that underperforming schools are largely found in minority neighborhoods throughout the country. Successfully reforming education will not only include finding more resources but allocating them effectively.
“If you want to close the achievement gap when we’re talking about education, then the group that’s struggling, that’s suffering the most, needs to get the most and that’s a concept that’s not typically an American concept,” Gettridge states.
Finding Common Goals
The call to redistribute funding is not designed to pit one group against another, but rather to examine and re-imagine the way local governments operate. That’s partly because police and educators will always be tied together as leaders in their communities.
“Teachers and police officers do share something in common; they’re asked to be held accountable for a lot of things that they didn’t create. They both are sharing in this pain right now,” Gettridge tells Parentology. Proponents of divesting are also not suggesting that we remove police from schools in a security capacity, but Gettridge does caution that there is a nuance between protecting kids in school and policing their behavior. “You should not be putting police in schools because you think you can’t control the kids. You need to be clear why you need security.”
How Can You Impact Your Community?
Parents who want to get involved can start by asking questions and doing their research. Most city and county budgets are public record and available online. Parents can see exactly what’s being budgeted for community programs and can even request to see their individual school budgets. Beyond that, most communities already have advocacy groups working on education reform that welcome citizen and parent involvement.
Gettridge believes that this renewed interest will help move education reform forward. “We’re starting to get a lot of questions now pointed to our policymakers pointed to our leaders in the community and I think it’s a good thing. I think it’s necessary,” he says.
Changing the public education system in America will take the work of many. Funding and community resources is only one piece of the equation. Advocates like Gettridge are hopeful that it’s a positive first step in the right direction.
“We’ve created a psychology in this America where we blame people and not systems,” he says. “Now we’re getting to the point where we’re looking at the system.”