Home > Uncategorized > U.S. Needs Strike Over Inequities in Public Schools – Bloomberg

U.S. Needs Strike Over Inequities in Public Schools – Bloomberg

September 23, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

School-finance inequity has been largely invisible in U.S. politics for three reasons.

First, teachers unions are uncomfortable talking about the lower-caliber talent the profession can recruit, on average, for schools in poor neighborhoods. It feels disrespectful to the current corps, many of whom are talented instructors working their hearts out under trying conditions.

Second, the U.S. tradition of “local control” of schools — which really means “local control and funding” — has given an unjust system a patina of virtue. In Illinois, two-thirds of school financing comes from local taxes; you can’t save poor kids without higher levels of government putting up cash.

Finally, some urban districts — Newark, N.J., and Washington are the leading examples — have high per-pupil spending and shoddy results. Most poor districts don’t spend as much as nearby suburbs, but critics use these outliers to discredit the idea that money matters. (A new report out this week from my colleagues at the Center for American Progress chronicles other “stealth inequities” in school funding, as well.)

Not long ago, I spoke with an education official in Singapore, whose system is widely praised for its teaching talent, and for making sure schools serving poor children have teachers just as good as those serving well-to-do families.

“I guess that commitment to equity is a cultural norm,” I said at one point.

“No, it’s not a ‘cultural norm,’” he said, correcting me. “It’s a policy choice.”

A policy choice. Imagine if the U.S. made a choice like that.

You won’t hear a peep about school-finance equity in the presidential campaign, even though both candidates claim to be passionate about education. Republican nominee Mitt Romney won’t raise it because fixing it involves — gulp! — “redistribution.” President Barack Obama won’t raise it for the same reason (though Education Secretary Arne Duncan has set up a commission, on which I serve, to look at these issues).

The solution is a bigger role for the federal government in school financing. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that federal officials should provide only 8 percent or 9 percent of the money for K-12 education.

via U.S. Needs Strike Over Inequities in Public Schools – Bloomberg.

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