In his visits to these schools, Kozol discovers that black and Hispanic schoolchildren are isolated from white schoolchildren and are shortchanged educationally. Racial segregation is supposed to have ended, so why are schools still segregating minority kids? In all of the states he visited, Kozol concludes that real integration has declined significantly and education for minorities and poor students has moved backwards rather than forwards. He notices persistent segregation and bias in poorer neighborhoods as well as drastic funding differences between schools in poor neighborhoods versus more affluent neighborhoods. The schools in the poor areas often lack the most basic needs, such as heat, textbooks and supplies, running water, and functioning sewer facilities. For instance, in an elementary school in Chicago, there are two working bathrooms for 700 students and the toilet paper and paper towels are rationed. In a New Jersey high school, only half of the English students have textbooks, and in a New York City high school, there are holes in the floors, plaster falling from the walls, and blackboards that are cracked so badly that students cannot write on them. Public schools in affluent neighborhoods did not have these problems.
It is because of the huge gap in funding between rich and poor schools that poor schools are faced with these issues. Kozol argues that in order to give poor minority children an equal chance at education, we must close the gap between rich and poor school districts in the amount of tax money spent on education.
The outcomes and consequences of this funding gap are dire, according to Kozol. As a result of the inadequate funding, students are not simply being denied basic educational needs, but their future is also deeply affected. There is severe overcrowding in these schools, along with teacher salaries that are too low to attract good teachers. These in turn lead to inner-city children’s low levels of academic performance, high dropout rates, classroom discipline problems, and low levels of college attendance. To Kozol, the nationwide problem of high school dropouts is a result of society and this unequal educational system, not a lack of individual motivation. Kozol’s solution to the problem, then, is to spend more tax money on poor schoolchildren and in the inner-city school districts to equalize the spending.
Kozol, J. (1992). Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools. New York, NY: Harper Perennial.