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[Susan notes: It is good to get a letter pointing out that poverty is the issue. Funding matter but poverty rules.]

Published in Los Angeles Times

To the editor

Re "Account for school funding," editorial, Sept. 15

Equitable funding of public schools is indispensable in narrowing the academic achievement gap among groups, but it alone is not nearly enough. That's because the equal funding argument is predicated on the dubious assumption that schools are able to overcome the huge deficits that poor children bring to class through no fault of their own.

It's more than mere coincidence that student ZIP Codes are tightly correlated with performance on standardized tests mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. As long as the U.S. has the highest rate of childhood poverty in the industrialized world, according to UNESCO, the gap will not disappear by increased funding.

It will take the adoption of policies that address the pathologies arising from abject poverty to allow schools to teach subject matter, rather than to perform daily triage with other needs of disadvantaged students.

Walt Gardner

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