What Does Money Have to Do with Equity, Social Justice, and Inclusion?
No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the greater part of the members are poor and miserable. It is but equity... that ... the people should have such a share of the produce of their own labour as to be themselves tolerably well fed, clothed, and lodged.
– Adam Smith, 1776, para. 36.
Public schools in the US are one prominent institution for enacting the common good (see the related Foundational Concept on that idea). In the passage that heads this section, Adam Smith highlighted the plight of ordinary people in societies characterized by economic inequity. He argued that, for any society to flourish, adequate resources are needed by everyone in that society. Contemporary societies tend to recognize this fact. It’s why developed and developing nations alike strive to offer public schooling. But even in the US, ordinary people still struggle for an equitable share of educational resources.
For educational leaders, the ongoing struggle in the management of resources is to ensure that prevailing inequities in society do not replicate themselves within public school systems. In actual fact, however, public school systems often mirror (and sometimes even perpetuate) the inequities present in society as a whole (e.g., Tye, 2000).
At the same time, public school systems are among the few institutions in society that can use resources wisely to ensure fairness. Of particular concern for educational leaders is the allocation of educational benefits—the development of the mind of each child and youth. When it is done well, the process enables all recipients of a public education to think better and act ethically—to live a meaningful life and to make the world a better place. In the twenty-first century these capacities are more important than ever.
What can leadership teams do? They can manage resources responsibly. In other words, they can allocate resources to address the most serious and the most prevalent needs evident in the district. The greater the need, the more resources should be allocated to address it. The principle is simple in theory, but school districts everywhere find it difficult to put into practice (Bird et al., 2009; Lunenburg, 2010; Roza, 2018). Getting money where it is most needed is an on-going struggle precisely because money is power.