May 15, 2018

EDUCATION MYTHS PERPETUATED: The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ most recent significant offering is entitled Report on Public Education Inequity in an Era of Increasing Concentration of Poverty and Resegregation. Alas, like many such reports, it perpetuates several destructive myths. For example, it suggests that school districts with high concentrations of minority or low-income students get fewer actual dollars per students than the average school district. Nope. While pockets of underfunding exist, low-income and high-minority school districts tend to get somewhat more money than the average school district on a per-pupil basis (though they get less per-pupil than some mostly-small, mega-wealthy school districts). This “fewer actual dollars per pupil” myth needs to be corrected; it gives rise to unnecessary resentments. It’s hard to have an honest and productive discussion about how schools should be funded, when people are being led to believe that things are worse than they are (and that racism is to blame). I am certainly willing to entertain the possibility that schools with high concentrations of low-income students need more money than the average school. Indeed, I’m inclined to believe it.  But I’m not willing to start from the notion that more money for schools is the primary thing that’s needed to solve the nation’s educational problems.

My Dissenting Statement to the Report on Public Education Inequity in an Era of Increasing Concentration of Poverty and Resegregation tries to deal with some of the realities of school finance. Among other things, it makes the point that the relationship between funding and student success is pretty tenuous. (E.g. Washington, D.C. schools are both the highest spenders and the lowest performers.)

I’m not sure I can fix all that’s wrong with schools today.  But I least I can point out when the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is on the wrong track.