Write an essay arguing what should be done about School Funding according to one of the six
theories (Egoism, Virtue Ethics, Utilitarianism, Deontology, Rights Ethics, and Care Ethics). Make sure to
respond to the author’s arguments, whether the theory you are using agrees with them or not. Remember,
briefly describe the issue, the theory, and what the theory would say about the issue and why.
Race & Performance Based Funding.
Florida, like some other states, has imposed performance based funding on its state universities. The basic
idea is that each state school is evaluated by ten standards and then the schools are ranked. The top schools
are rewarded and the bottom schools are punished.
As a runner and a professor, I certainly get the idea of linking rewards to performance. As a runner, I believe
that better performance merits the better awards (be it a gold medal, a fat stack of cash, or a ribbon). As a
professor, I believe that performance merits the better grades and that poor performance merits the
corresponding lower grades. However, I also recognize the importance of fairness.
In the case of running, a fair race requires that everyone must compete on the same course and under the
same conditions. The age and gender of the runners is also taken into account when assessing performance
and there are even age-graded performance formulas to take into account the ravages of time.
In the case of grading, a fair class requires that everyone is required to do the same work, receives the same
support from the professor, and that the assessment standards are the same. Fairness also requires that
special challenges faced by some students are taken into account. Otherwise, the assessment is unjust.
The same applies to performance based funding of education. If the goal is to encourage better performance
on the part of all the schools, the competition needs to be fair. Going with a classroom analogy, if a student
knows that the class is rigged against her, she is not likely to be motivated to do her best. There also seems to
be an obvious moral requirement that the assessment be fair and this would require considering the specific
challenges that each school faces. Laying aside the normative aspects, there is also the matter of accuracy:
knowing how well a school in performing requires considering what challenges it had to overcome.
While all the schools operate within the state of Florida and face similar challenges, each school also faces
some special challenges. Because of this, a proper and just assessment of a schools performance (how well it
does in educating students, etc.) should reflect these challenges. To simply impose standards that fail to
consider these challenges would be unfair and would also yield an inaccurate account of the success or failure
of the school.
Consider the following analogy: imagine, if you will, that the Pentagon adopted a performance based funding
model for military units using various standards such as cost of operations, causalities, how well the units got
along with the locals and so on. Now imagine that the special challenges of the units were not properly
considered so that, for example, a unit operating in the deserts of Iraq fighting ISIS was assessed the same
way as a unit stationed in Kentucky. As might be imagined, the unit in Iraq would certainly be assessed as
performing worse than the unit stationed in Kentucky. The unit in Kentucky would presumably cost less per
person, have far fewer causalities, and get along much better with the locals. As such, the unit fighting ISIS
would find itself in funding trouble since its performance would seem rather worse than the unit in Kentucky. Of
course, this approach would be irrational and unfair—the unit fighting ISIS might be performing extremely well
relative to the challenges it faces. The same, it would seem, should hold for schools. Turning back to
performance based funding, I will consider the relevant standards and how they are unfair to my school, Florida
Florida A&M University is an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) and is still predominantly
African-American. The school also prides itself on providing educational opportunities to students who have
been denied such opportunities as well as those who are first generation college students. Put roughly, we
have many African-American students and a large number of students who are burdened with economic and
As I have mentioned in a previous essay, FAMU fared poorly under the state’s standards. To be fair, we
honestly did do poorly in regards to the state’s standards. However, there are the important questions as to
whether the standards are fair and whether or not the assessment of our performance is accurate.
On the one hand, the answer to both questions can be taken as “yes.” The standards apply to all the schools
and the assessment was accurate in terms of the results. On the other hand, the answer is also “no”, since
FAMU faces special challenges and the assessment fails to take these into account. To use a running analogy,
the situation is like comparing the true 5K times of various runners. This is fair and accurate in that all runners
are using their 5K times and the times are accurate. However, if some runners had to run hilly trails and others
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did their 5Ks on tracks, then the competition would not be fair. After all, a slower 5K on a hilly trail could be a
much better performance than a 5K on a track.
To get directly to the point, my claim is that FAMU faces the special challenge of racism and the legacy of
racism. This, I contend, means that FAMU is being assessed unfairly in terms of its performance: FAMU is
running hills on a trail while other schools are enjoying a smoother run around the track. In support of this
claim, I offer the following evidence.
One standard is the Percent of Bachelor’s Graduates Employed and/or Continuing their Education Further. A
second is the Average Wages of Employed Baccalaureate. The third is the Six Year Graduation Rate and the
fourth is the Academic Progress Rate (2nd Year Retention with GPA Above 2.0). These four break down into
two general areas. The first is economic success (employment and wages) and the second is academic
success (staying in school and graduating). I will consider each general area.
On the face of it, retention and graduation rates should have no connection to race. After all, one might argue,
these are a matter of staying in school and completing school which is a matter of personal effort rather than
While I do agree that personal effort does matter, African-American students face at least two critical obstacles
in regards to retention and graduation. The first is that African-American students are still often victims of
segregation in regards to K-12 education and receive generally inferior education relative to white students. It
should be no surprise that this educational disadvantage manifests itself in terms of retention and graduation
rates. To use a running analogy, no one would be surprised if the runners who were poorly trained and
coached did worse than better trained and coached runners.
The second is economic, which ties directly into the standards relating to economic success. As will be shown,
African-Americans are far less well off than other Americans. Since college is expensive, it is hardly surprising
that people who are less well-off would have a harder time remaining in and completing college. As I have
discussed in other essays, the main (self-reported) reason for students being absent from my classes is for
work and there is a clear correlation between attendance and class performance. I now turn to the unfairness
of the state’s economic success standards.
While I do not believe that the primary function of the state university is to train students to be job fillers for the
job creators, I do agree that it is reasonable to consider the economic success of students when evaluating
schools. However, assessing how much the school contributes to economic success requires considering the
starting point of the students and the challenges they will face in achieving success.
To be blunt, race is a major factor in regards to economic success in the United States. This is due to a variety
of historical factors (slavery and the legacy of slavery) and contemporary factors (persistent racism). These
factors manifest themselves quite clearly and, as such, the relatively poor performance of African-American
graduates from FAMU is actually what should be expected.
In regards to employment, the University of Chicago conducted a study aimed at determining if there is racial
bias in hiring. To test this, the researchers responded to 1,300 job advertisements with 5,000 applications.
They found that comparable resumes with white sounding names were 50% more likely to get called for an
initial interview relative to those with more African-American sounding names. The researchers found that
white sounding applications got call backs at a rate of 1 in 10 while for black sounding names it was 1 in 15.
This is clearly significant.
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Interestingly, a disparity was also found in regards to the impact of experience and better credentials. A white
job applicant with a higher quality application was 30% more likely to get a call than a white applicant with a
lower quality application. For African-Americans, the higher quality application was only 9% more likely to get a
call than a lower quality black application.
This disparity in the hiring process seems to help explain the disparity in employment. For whites, the
unemployment rate is 5.3% and it is 11.4% for blacks. As such, it is hardly surprising that African-American
students from FAMU are doing worse than students from schools that are mostly white.
Assuming that this information is accurate, this means that FAMU could be producing graduates as good as
the other schools while still falling considerably behind them in regards to the employment of graduates. That
is, FAMU could be doing a great job that is getting degraded by racism. As such, the employment assessment
would need to be adjusted to include this factor. Going with the running analogy, FAMU’s African-American
graduates have to run uphill to get a job, while white graduates get to run on much flatter course.
In addition to employment, a graduate’s wages is also one of the standards used by the state. FAMU fared
poorly relative to the other schools here as well. However, this is also exactly what should be expected in the
United States. The poverty rate for whites is 9.7% while that for blacks it is 27.2%. The median household
wealth for whites is $91,405 and for blacks $6,446. Blacks own homes at a rate of 43.5% while whites do so at
72.9%. Median household income is $35,416 for blacks and $59,754 for whites. As such, it would actually be
surprising if African American graduates of FAMU competed well against the statistics for predominantly white
It might be contended that these statistics are not relevant because what is of concern is the performance of
African-American college graduates and not the general economic woes of African-Americans. Unfortunately,
college education does not close the racial wealth gap.
While the great recession had a negative impact on the wealth of most Americans, African-Americans with
college degrees were hits surprisingly hard: there net worth dropped 60% from 2007 to 2013. In contrast,
whites suffered a decline of 16% and, interestingly, Asians saw a slight increase. An analysis of the data (and
data going back to 1992) showed that black and Hispanics had more assets in housing and more debts and
these were major factors in the loss of wealth (the burst of the housing bubble crashed house values). In terms
of income, researchers take the main causes of the disparity to include discrimination and career choices. In
addition to the impact on salary, this wealth disparity also impacts retention and graduation rates. As such, the
state is right to focus heavily on economics—but the standards need to consider the broader economic reality
It is reasonable to infer that the main reason that FAMU fares worse in these areas is due to factors beyond the
control of the school. Most of our students are black and in the United States, discrimination and enduring
historical factors blacks do far worse than whites. As such, these poor numbers are more a reflection of the
poor performance of America than on the performance of Florida A&M University. Because of this, the
standards should be adjusted to take into account the reality of race in America.