Examining Education in Cleveland Through Game Theory


My topic is the issue of inequitable education in Cleveland. This relates to the UN sustainable development goal of quality education. Education is an extremely important issue not just in Cleveland, but everywhere. Education is a pathway to a better future, and it can be used as an escape from poverty and a lack of opportunity. However, many in Cleveland are unable to succeed through the public education system. One of the city’s most important goals for the future is finding a way to improve education and opportunities for those who, for a variety of reasons, are not supported by the current education system.

Education in Cleveland is extremely inequitable. In Cleveland, roughly 20% of people do not have do not have a high school diploma, and additionally only 20% have a college degree. This percentage of people without a high school diploma is extremely high in comparison with the rest of the state and the country. In fact, Cleveland has a higher percentage of people without a high school diploma than any other of the 50 biggest public school districts in the state of Ohio. It also has one of the lowest percentages of people with a college degree. Sadly, a lack of education tends to rely heavily on both race and economic standing. On average, the higher one’s annual earnings, the higher education one will receive. This means that children in poverty are extremely more likely to not graduate high school, and are additionally extremely unlikely to go to college. Additionally, non-white students are much more likely to lack a high school diploma, with the Hispanics being the most likely to not graduate high school. Black and Hispanic students are also much less likely to graduate college than their white and Asian counterparts. Overall, minimizing the racial and economic disparity in the Cleveland school system is a very important issue facing my community. The city has made great steps towards improvement in recent years, but it still has far to go.

If you are interested in learning more about the data and statistics of education in Cleveland, or anywhere, I recommend you explore the following website:

I encourage you to watch this video outlining some of the problems with US public education and some of the steps being taken to solve them.

Game Theoretic Model

There are two players in the model that I developed: The school board and the voters. The voters have two strategies: Fund- The voters can as a whole decide to support what the school board is asking for, or Not Fund- The voters can deny the school board’s request for funding . The school board has three strategies: Ask for all necessary funding: The school can decide to ask the voters to provide all the money that it needs for the year. This would be the best case scenario, Ask for partial funding: The school might think that the entirety of what is necessary is too much money, so it is unlikely to be funded by the voters. Instead of asking for everything, they can ask for partial funding to increase the chance that the voters will support their request, or Ask for nothing: If the school thinks that no matter what, the voters are unlikely to vote to support the school, or the tax raise that comes from voting to support the schools is unmanageable, they can ask for no extra funds from the voters.

Matrix Model

Rows= Voters, Columns= School BoardABC

Voter Strategies:

  • A= Vote to fund
  • B= Vote not to fund

School Board Strategies:

  • A= ask for all necessary funding
  • B= ask for partial funding
  • C= ask for nothing

I found a Nash Equilibrium solution at AA. This situation is where the Voters vote to fund, and the School Board asks for all necessary funding. Based on what a Nash Equilibrium means, this situation is the case in which based on what the other player chose to play, neither player would rather play a different strategy. I also found that AA and AB are Pareto Optimal outcomes. These are outcomes where there are no other outcomes that are better for both players. I do not think mixed strategies, strategies where players have set odds of choosing each strategy, and then choose randomly based on those odds, are particularly applicable to this situation because it would be impossible to get a group of people to decide randomly on a strategy.


Most importantly, these findings show that it is crucial for voters to vote to fund the schools. If they do not choose to do so, the schools cannot benefit at all, and the district, represented by the voters, does not gain the benefits of a strong school system. The best solution is probably AA, where the voters fund the school board’s proposal for all necessary funding. This will benefit the school board the most, because they ask for everything they need, but it will also benefit the voters. For the voters, the school system in general will be stronger, which is a big benefit, but also they will not need to vote to provide as much money for the schools in future years because the school board asked for everything they needed. This enables other, non-school related proposals, to be funded in future years. One program that could help to carry out this solution in real life is increased campaigning for the schools. It is important for the people to know that schools are extremely important, so campaigning and advertisements can be a great option to inform the public about the importance of a strong school district.


Please respond to this survey to get you thinking about education and what you can do! If you would like to know more about how you can make a difference, get involved! Find local community groups, donate and support local fundraisers, and be sure to stay educated about what is going on where you live.

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