This isn't really an individual ethical dilemma, but it is sort of a societal one.
How should public K-12 schools be funded? In some states, local property taxes fund local schools, with the result that public schools in affluent neighborhoods get more money per student than those in poor neighborhoods. The Supreme Court has said that this approach does not violate the Constitution
. That may be right as a matter of constitutional law, but it's obviously problematic.
In other states, such as the one I live in, the state funds all school districts on the same per-student basis. Yet, the quality of public schools is still strongly correlated with the wealth of the local neighborhoods. What happens is that the local schools are permitted to create their own foundations, which then raise money on behalf of the school(s) that they are attached to. Our elementary school's foundation had its annual auction recently, and while I don't know how much was raised this year, I know that last year, it was enough to save the P.E. teacher's job, which otherwise would have been eliminated due to budget cuts.
Mrs. Raccoon and I live in a relatively affluent part of the city. We're not the richest family in the school district, but we're not the poorest either. And people who attended the auction were able to bid, for example, $1200 for their child to be able to be "principal for a day"; $1200 for 4 students to have breakfast with a very popular teacher; and $1000+ for art projects made by various classes. Not only that, a number of us made outright donations of amounts ranging from $50 to $1000. (By no means are we in the wealthiest area, though. A few other foundations raise A LOT more.)
But you can see where I am going with this. The state tried to equalize funding for all students, but parents who have the means and resources and who care about their kids' education aren't going to stand by and do nothing. Parents who don't have the means and resources can care about their kids' education, but they can't raise funds like this. So my kid gets to have his P.E. teacher, but poor kids maybe don't.
(It's actually not so bleak. 2/3 of what's raised goes to that foundation; 1/3 gets kicked to the state, which presumably uses it to help ease funding crises in the schools in the poor neighborhoods. Of course, I'd prefer that my son's school get the full amount raised, but I can understand this requirement. Any more would probably be too much, so I think the state has calibrated it reasonably well.)
I suppose the state could forbid these sorts of foundations, but disparities would still remain. For one thing, those parents with resources and means would probably just opt to live less well and pay for private schools. That of course lowers the teacher-student ratio in the public schools and is a short-term benefit, but if enough affluent people opt out of the public school system because they can't even raise funds to help their own schools, there will be push back on public school spending. . . .
Besides, one thing I notice at my son's school when I drop him off is how many parents (mostly moms, admittedly) volunteer their time as teacher's aides. I don't mean to suggest that only affluent parents care about their kids' education, but again, this is a matter of time/resources. You're more likely to see one working spouse households where the non-working parent can be an effective volunteer aide when the working spouse has a relatively high income.
* * *
Back when I used to teach SAT prep courses, I would mock the SAT to the students by pointing out its perfect correlation to family income. (Ironically, most of the students came from affluent families.) But such a correlation isn't at all surprising. Affluence/wealth translates into better average student performance for many reasons having nothing to do with the genetic inheritability of intelligence.
Can society sever that correlation? Do these foundations that I described above essentially benefit a few students while imposing an effective cost on other (poor) students?