June 2, 2016

William J. Mathis, (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Daniel J. Quinn, (517) 203-2940, dquinn@greatlakescenter.org

Strong Investments and Supports Needed for Education to Become "Great Equalizer"

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Jun. 2, 2016) – The seventh in a series of concise policy briefs addresses how Horace Mann's vision for public schools has been undermined by substantial disparities in educational resources, opportunities, and outcomes. Research-Based Options for Education Policymaking is a compilation of short policy briefs that takes important policy issues and identifies policies supported by research.

Each section focuses on a different issue, with recommendations to policymakers based on sound scholarship. The compendium is produced by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) and is funded in part by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

In The Purpose of Education: Truing the Balance Wheel, William J. Mathis, University of Colorado Boulder, discusses what it would take for Mann's ideal of education as the "great equalizer of the conditions of men" to become a reality. Mann proclaimed that education was the bedrock of democracy and that it had the potential to serve as a "balance wheel of social machinery."

Moreover, he believed that education needed to be "universal, non-sectarian, free, and that its aims should be social efficiency, civic virtue, and character, rather than mere learning for the advancement of sectarian ends."

Dr. Mathis says in this concise brief, "Given the broad scope of inequities in schools and in society writ large, the most sensible approach would be to inventory the full range of social and economic needs, and address the multiple factors—which extend well beyond the traditional boundaries of schools—that contribute to the enduring and increasing opportunity gap that children experience in schools."

Mathis recommends that in order to true the balance wheel (as Mann desired), both in-school and out-of-school factors need to be addressed. He suggests that policymakers and the general public: (1) embrace a broad set of goals of education; (2) ensure that all schools have the fundamental educational resources they need to promote student success; (3) expand the scope of schools in high-poverty neighborhoods to provide wrap-around services; and (4) promote a policy context that is supportive of equal opportunity.

The concise brief is based on Jennifer King Rice's Investing in Equal Opportunity: What Would it Take to Build the Balance Wheel?, which was also produced by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Find the concise brief on the GLC website:

This brief is also found on the NEPC website at:

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

Visit the Great Lakes Center website at http://www.greatlakescenter.org/