You decide: You say that you want everyone to take the bus to the game. The bus costs $3.00. Jerry has three dollars, Stacey has $2.50 and Eddie has $2.00. Ok , you say, I’ll give everyone $.50 so they can take the bus. That’s fair, everyone gets the same amount. But look at the outcome. Jerry has more than he needs, Stacey has just what she needs and Eddie still can’t get on the bus. What looks “fair” on one level simply doesn’t reach the outcome you wanted: everyone can ride the bus.
This example of how we discuss what is “fair” haunts our discussions of school funding. We keep talking about the amount or the division of the pie, without considering the outcome. School funding is not an end, it’s a means.
What is the outcome we want as we fund our schools? Do we want to say that everyone got a chance to be in a seat at school? Or do we want every child to graduate prepared to be a contributing member of our society? It really makes a difference when we define the the outcome. What do you want the outcome to be?
I know what I want. I want our children to grow up to find and pursue their passions. I want our children to have an opportunity to explore their many interests. I want our children to take care of their elders- like me- who will need their productivity to fund our retirements and health services.
I don’t want to be afraid. I don’t want to be afraid of desperate people. I don’t want to be afraid of getting old and sick. I don’t want to live in a gated community in order to feel safe. How about you?
In order for my desires to be met and my fears mitigated, I need ALL our children to be educated so they can contribute to our well being. That’s why these discussions of “fairness” make me want to tear my hair out. When the Star Ledger rails against our school funding formula and then turns around to recommend that outside donors be fair in funding schools, I think I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole to Wonderland.
You see, as the Cheshire Cat said, it really does matter where you want to go.