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Unequal funding? That's not the main problem. What's unequal is the intelligence and compassion of the people in charge.
To an astonishing degree, they promote theories and methods that are known to be ineffective. The only connection to money is that the school system makes a lot of money by turning out unsuccessful students! Thank you, Title X.
Consider this factoid: Jean Chall's The Great Debate, 1967, shows that of 27 studies from 1920 to 1965, Whole Word was found superior by only one study. ( And this one study was from the 1920s when the professors were probably trying to concoct "research" to support the coming introduction of Look-say.)
Everyone in the Education Establishment knows this. But they continue to scorn phonics and promote Whole Word. You will have a lot of trouble coming up with a benign theory to explain this.
The factoid is from a new article on American Thinker called: "K-12: Unequal Resources? No, Unequal, Reading."
It shows that the real problem in K-12 is consistent pattern of endorsing bad pedagogies. You want progress? All we have to do is eliminate the dysfunctional and unworkable.