The education of America’s rich and poor

 Robert Reich, who was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, took note on his blog of the education gap between rich and poor.

  • The United States, among the 65 nations participating in the Program for International Student Achievement, has one of the largest gaps in achievement between children of the rich and children of the poor.  This wealth gap in educational achievement has been growing while the gap between white and black Americans has been shrinking.
  • The United States, among the 34 nations that belong to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, has one of the largest gaps between spending on schools attended by children of the rich and schools attended by children of the poor.

He quoted Eduardo Porter, who wrote about unequal education in the New York Times.

“The debate about education reform is a lot about process,” said David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center in Newark, an advocacy group for disadvantaged students. “To a large extent it is a huge distraction. We never get to the question of what resources we need to get the students to meet the standards.”

The United States is one of few advanced nations where schools serving better-off children usually have more educational resources than those serving poor students, according to research by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.  Among the 34 O.E.C.D. nations, only in the United States, Israel and Turkey do disadvantaged schools have lower teacher/student ratios than in those serving more privileged students.

Andreas Schleicher, who runs the O.E.C.D.’s international educational assessments, put it to me this way: “The bottom line is that the vast majority of O.E.C.D. countries either invest equally into every student or disproportionately more into disadvantaged students. The U.S. is one of the few countries doing the opposite.”

The inequity of education finance in the United States is a feature of the system, not a bug, stemming from its great degree of decentralization and its reliance on local property taxes.

via NYTimes.com.

Via NYTimes

Via NYTimes

In New York state, the richest 10 percent of school districts have six times the tax base per pupil as the 10 percent poorest, and they  spend double per pupil what the poorest ones do.  The gap in resources and spending between the states is even greater.  Unlike many countries, the national government does not equalize educational opportunity by equalizing spending.

Educational credentials are a means by which Americans are sorted into winners and losers.  As long as we think this is the function of education, why would rich families give up any advantage that would make their children winners?

LINKS

Back to School, and to Widening Inequality by Robert Reich.

In Public Education, Edge Still Goes to Rich by Eduardo Porter for the New York Times.

Reading Writing, Ransacking by Charles P. Pierce for Esquire.

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