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Investing in Equal Opportunity: What Would it Take to Build the Balance Wheel?

In this policy brief, Jennifer King Rice revisits Horace Mann's vision of education as the balance wheel of society. She describes the current school system with its own inequities, far from the needed counter-balance to the opportunity gaps that arise from poverty, discrimination and other outside-school forces.

Professor Rice then considers the alternative: how the system would look if it were fully committed to the goal of equal opportunity. She identifies resources and supporting policies that would be required for such a system, extending to a range of socioeconomic and other factors. Recognizing that the opportunity gap goes well beyond school control, she explains how efforts to promote equity must include a broader set of services.

The brief describes resources both within the traditional education sphere and reaching beyond it, expanding the role of education in addressing all students’ needs. Her recommendations for policymakers include:

  • Recognizing the broader goals of education such as civic responsibility, democratic values, economic self-sufficiency, and social and economic opportunity;
  • Ensuring that all schools have the fundamental resources necessary for student success, especially for those students with disadvantaged backgrounds;
  • Expanding the services and resources offered to schools in high-poverty neighborhoods, providing wrap-around services such as nutritional supports and health clinics; and
  • Promoting a policy context supportive of equal opportunity and sensitive to local circumstances.