Education popped back onto my radar this week, propelled by two separate online sources. An article at CityLab failed, crashed, burned, and then disintegrated as it took claims made in a report by an equity in education think tank and, in essence, unknowingly made the case that every claim which the report made was refuted by the facts. In the other an interviewer and interviewee reveal that they have spent millions of dollars, in the case of the former, and decades of their life, in the case of the latter, to finally arrive at the conclusion they could have garnered from any one of my “It’s the Schools, Stupid” series: we reverse cause and effect when it comes to educational outcomes and students.
In “The Whiter, Richer School District Right Next Door” Adam Harris selects the Waterbury, Wolcott, and Plymouth school districts in Connecticut to highlight how disparities in funding create disparate outcomes between students. Unfortunately for him a commenter discovered that Waterbury, the “poorer, browner” school district outspends each of these Whiter, Richer School Districts Next Door on a per pupil basis according to ctfinance.org. I was unable to find that data myself and so I just put “per pupil spending” and the names of the towns into Google and got the same results.
Furthermore, in looking into the report itself I noticed this little tidbit: In Massachusetts, Springfield isn’t analyzed. Hmmm, could that be because the city gets so much state funding that it dwarfs the spending of most of the surrounding communities? Instead, working class but hardly poor Chicopee is made the poster child by comparing it to neighboring Ludlow. I’m not sure, but I think that might be what’s called “cherry picking” your data.
I agree with the basic argument that poorer districts should be able to fund their schools at levels which correspond to surrounding communities, but pretending that balancing out those inequities, where they exist, will lead to similar outcomes belies ALL OF THE DATA. The single greatest determinant of educational outcomes is parental incomes regardless of per pupil expenditures.
Poor schools need more funding because poorer kids are harder to educate. You don’t increase resources in an emergency room in hopes that you can make the outcomes correspond to those of your GP, you do it because the ER needs resources, and you judge what’s done with those resources by looking for overall improvement, or comparing outcomes to those of other equivalent emergency rooms.
Two people from opposite ends of the political spectrum have a conversation on the podcast Pitchfork Economics in which they arrive at the same conclusion. Diane Ravitch, Assistant Secretary of Education under George H.W. Bush, and Nick Hanauer, self proclaimed progressive admit that they were both misguided in their attempts to reform the American educational system, and that in the end they both have done more harm than good. They’ve determined that the overall economy and salaries drive successful schools and not vice versa.
I’ve read Diane Ravitch’s book Reign of Error and recommend it, but I was surprised to hear her say in an aside during the interview that “integration was successful”. She must mean that during the brief period before the dynamic impact of integration, White flight, occurred, there were some positive outcomes. Forced integration wasn’t even successful at forcing integration. Having failed to actually create integrated schools, how could it be successful at doing anything else?
I further recommend the Jacobin Radio interview last week with Lily Geismer on Race and Class in the Liberal Suburbs. It more or less covers the same ground I did in my Crossing the Divide (minute 51) presentation. In essence wealthy liberals talk a good game when it comes to integration, but they pay enormous premiums to make sure their kids don’t go to school with Black and Hispanic kids unless their numbers and characteristics, those of the minority children, are carefully vetted.
To conclude this media centric post I recommend Chuck Marohn’s interview with Chris Andrade. There’s a lot of there there and not all of it relates to my situation in Springfield, but the idea of staying in a particular community is one which resonates with me. It isn’t that I feel that anyone who moves away from their hometown is maladaptive or evil, but seeing value in a non-superstar place is often viewed as abnormal by folks in the “front row”. It is a much more common sentiment expressed in the MSM and by elites; it was only a little while ago that Richard Florida in particular commented in an extensive essay that the desire of many people to remain in their communities was an obstacle to be overcome. Apparently more of us need to move to San Francisco or Cambridge. What could go wrong?
(Photos by Luna)
My wife just got home from the Food Zone with Luna. The closing of the more mainstream Food Mart at that same location some years ago initiated talk of a food desert here in Springfield. It’s hardly a place where you see a lot of White middle class folk; like my wife and LuLu. But it is right on one bus route and a block from at least two more. It doesn’t stop there, they will not only deliver food to you, but they’ll deliver you to the food if you can spend $50! Non sequitur? Not really. Listen to the podcast with Chris Andrade. Food Zone isn’t Albertsons. I’m not gonna lie, I don’t know what half the stuff they sell in Food Zone even is. But I think most of the people in the neighborhood do. It’s not a food desert because I can’t buy a rotisserie chicken or get a nice bottle of wine.
What? I can get a bottle of wine there?