REGION — For low-income communities in North County, government funding for schools may decrease the achievement gap between students, according to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
With adequate funding, schools are better able to provide quality resources for low-income students, which Mary Kovic, 18, a sophomore at Palomar College, felt she did not have, coming from Fallbrook High.
“I feel like AP classes, programs that were supposed to prepare you, weren’t really like college at all,” said Kovic. Kovic felt class structures and rigor, as well as communication with counselors, needed improvement.
Amy Binder, a professor at the University of California, San Diego, cites having adequate funding for textbooks, and teachers with high qualifications, as important tools, along with good preparation in terms of performance.
“You definitely see that, on average, students from lower SES [socioeconomic status] backgrounds tend to struggle more, meaning they need more support at higher levels,” said Binder. “And this is not a reflection of their ability, but a reflection of the preparation they’ve received earlier in their lives.”
At Fallbrook High, a majority low-income school, only 41.7 percent of students in 2016 were considered college and career ready, a medium level of preparedness, according to the school’s profile with the California Department of Education (CDE).
In North County, the city of Oceanside is listed as low-income, according to the Center for Policy Initiatives and the U.S. Census Bureau’s FactFinder. According to Oceanside High’s school profile, nearly half of students are low-income and only one-third of 2016-2017 graduates were college and career ready, a level of preparedness the CDE considers low.
To raise these levels, California has attempted to increase funding for low-income students, aimed at fulfilling the requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. This issue is also surfacing in the upcoming elections.
Democrat Mike Levin, a candidate for the 49th District, said, in early campaigning, “I will advocate for our local public schools to get the resources they need to hire and keep excellent teachers, reduce class sizes, and invest in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) programs.”
Concerning financial resources in high school, Kovic did not know she qualified for standardized test and college application fee waivers. Kovic also believes her school gave her little support in exploring post-secondary options.
“Counselors did not reach out as much as they should have,” Kovic said. “I see one in college around three times a semester now because it’s a really good resource to have and I don’t think students know that they have it enough.”
Kovic’s experience is common, as low-income students typically lack the knowledge to seek resources and help without guidance.
“Often times, higher SES students have learned that in their families and in their high schools they should feel entitled to specialized help, and lower SES students have not,” said Binder.
To address this, some North County schools like Oceanside High have partnered with community college programs like MiraCosta College’s GEAR UP, a federally funded program aimed toward better preparing low-income students for college success. Community colleges also use federal funding for campus low-income programs. At Palomar, Kovic participates in First Year Experiences in addition to receiving financial aid.
“It lifted the overwhelming financial burden of textbook costs and other college expenses,” said Kovic. “By participating, college has become less intimidating in nearly every aspect.”
MiraCosta College offers a similar resource to recent high school graduates of partner schools called First Year Forward.
Now, with financial and counseling assistance at Palomar, Kovic is pursuing a major in computer science and plans to transfer to a four-year university after completing her Associate’s degree.
Sarah Verschoor is currently a student at Stanford University and worked as an intern for The Coast News. She is a graduate of Fallbrook High School.