Let’s begin with a choice.
Say there’s a check in the mail. It’s meant to help you run your household. You can use it to keep the lights on, the water running and food on the table. Would you rather that check be for $9,794 or $28,639?
It’s not a trick question. It’s the story of America’s schools in two numbers.
That $9,794 is how much money the Chicago Ridge School District in Illinois spent per child in 2013 (the number has been adjusted by Education Week to account for regional cost differences). It’s well below that year’s national average of $11,841.
Ridge’s two elementary campuses and one middle school sit along Chicago’s southern edge. Roughly two-thirds of its students come from low-income families, and a third are learning English as a second language.
Here, one nurse commutes between three schools, and the two elementary schools share an art teacher and a music teacher. They spend the first half of the year at different schools, then, come January, box up their supplies and swap classrooms.
“We don’t have a lot of the extra things that other districts may have, simply because we can’t afford them,” says Ridge Superintendent Kevin Russell.
One of those other districts sits less than an hour north, in Chicago’s affluent suburbs, nestled into a warren of corporate offices: Rondout School, the only campus in Rondout District 72.
It has 22 teachers and 145 students, and spent $28,639 on each one of them.
What does that look like?
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