Since March 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has been detrimental for many people and businesses. Local shops went out of business, restaurants closed, and schools underwent an abrupt and drastic change. Schools everywhere went from roundtable to behind the computer screen. For elementary and high school students, the switch to online was extremely burdensome. Now that students are filling the classroom again, the load hasn't lightened for some school districts in Louisiana.
According to a study by WalletHub, certain districts across Louisiana don't provide the same quality elementary or secondary school education. Unfortunately, wealthier neighborhoods receive a greater amount of funding per student than low-income neighborhoods. The discrepancies between wealthy and low-income neighborhoods have only intensified since the pandemic began. Since transitioning to remote learning, low-income students have suffered the greatest "learning loss." This is caused directly by not having the needed resources, such as computers or laptops, to make remote learning for every student possible. WalletHub ranked the states with the most and least equitable school districts in the U.S. Louisiana ranked number 25, with Beauregard Parish as most fair, and Orleans Parish (which has some of the wealthiest neighborhoods in New Orleans—Carrolton/Audubon, Lakeview/City Park, French Quarter, and the Garden District) as the least fair. The pandemic disproportionally impacted low-income students last year and will continue to do so moving forward unless serious action is taken to make sure that these school districts have the resources they need to catch up and provide a robust education in the coming academic year.
For public schools, most of the funding is determined on how well a school performs on standardized tests. In low-income districts last year, the quality of education decreased drastically due to inequality resource distribution causing a lack of materials needed for successful online or hybrid learning. As a result, these schools will have lower scores, and instead of giving these schools additional support so that the students may catch up, they will receive less funding and have even fewer recourses. Contrasted to neighborhoods in Orleans Parish, where wealthy families were able to stay at home with their child during lockdown and have access to a desktop or laptop for online learning. Now that schools are opening again, unfair funding is causing a new problem—low-income families can't afford to stay at home with their child and therefore must send them to public schools that aren't mandating masks or social distancing, while wealthy families are staying home or can afford to send their child to private schools with much smaller class sizes and less risk, as well as with funding that is not determined by the local and state government.
The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted deadly flaws in the education system. Working toward providing all school districts with equitable funding by moving away from outdated policies for public schools, such as funding based on standardized testing, will help all students have a level playing field in graduation rates and pursuing high school graduation. WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez explained that the best way to put one forward toward this goal is to "make sure that all schools have the resources they need to provide a robust education in the coming year…no matter how affluent a school's community is, it should have enough funding for an effective catch-up year, including tutoring resources for students who have fallen behind."
To view the data from WalletHub, visit wallethub.com.