Op-Ed: Occupy the Future: Widening the gap in education quality since 1995

Dec. 1, 2011, 12:48 a.m.

Chula Vista, my hometown, has the largest elementary school district in California, with 46 schools that serve the city’s 230,000 residents. Having such a large school district poses an interesting set of problems, primarily dealing with the quality of education that exists across the economically diverse city. The East has the newest homes, the newest schools and the wealthiest families, while the West tends to be poorer, have older facilities and generally lag behind in the “Academic Performance Index” (API), which the state of California uses to measure scholastic achievement from second to 11th grade. I guess it makes sense (although it may not be proper): studies have long shown a correlation between wealth and scholastic achievement. However, there is something a bit more unsettling happening in Chula Vista.


EastLake, the second-largest subdivision — and possibly the wealthiest and most successful, having won San Diego’s “Best Community” award 11 years straight — on the East side of Chula Vista has its own educational foundation. The EastLake Educational Foundation was established in 1995 and serves the subdivision’s four elementary schools, one middle school and one high school. Geared toward grants for technology, the foundation states that it funds “programs that are either poorly funded through traditional means or have no existing funding base through the public school districts.” Which is to say that it has provided over one million dollars in supplemental aid to precisely the same programs that no other students at the 42 other elementary schools, nine other middle schools and nine other high schools have access to.


That’s not all though: the initial endowment for the foundation was created by the EastLake Corporation, the entity that developed the community. Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that the development that set up private governments for its own residents to administer its pools and parks (as city parks and pools saw severe budget cuts or were closed) also created a privatized school fund to supplement the dwindling state budget for education. Marketing ploy or not, the EastLake Corporation greatly reinforced the economic inequality that geographically maps the city and exacerbated it by impacting the youth that will make up our future generations.


I have been asked if there would be a way to make the EEF contribute to the other schools in the district. Perhaps they should, but coming to a philosophical decision on whether the EastLake Educational Foundation (and other organizations like it) should be mandated to spread the wealth steps beyond the heart of the issue. The system is broken: privilege builds upon and serves itself, congratulating itself and basking in its wealth as the disenfranchised continue to go without, only falling further and further behind. Thus I cannot accept the existence of this foundation and others like it. From the realization that a child’s education needs supplemental funding, understanding that other children at other schools in the same district are also lacking should follow. Rather than retreating from the public sphere or using their wealth for subsidy, the privileged few should exercise their agency and work to create an education system that brings an appropriate level of public funding to students of all socioeconomic backgrounds.


Gerald Hanono ‘12

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