Ever been to the school district where Brown v Board of Ed was decided?

I have. About 12 years ago I traveled to Topeka, Kansas with my debate team (yes I was on the debate team, c’mon now). I was a teenager from upstate NY and had experienced racism in schools already. I was really curious about this high school that was used as the symbol for one of the greatest victories for people of color and their rightful access to a fair and equitable education. The high school was empty when we were there, but for some reason, we sensed the tension that was clearly still plaguing the school. Posters demanding that one support diversity and multiculturalism were everywhere.
It was not until I was a MA student in Equity and Social Justice in Education that I read that 50 years later, things hadn’t really changed much at the Topeka School District. That state by state, throughout the country in “high risk” places, it was almost impossible to counter segregation policy that disguised itself with benign terminology and strategically (busing, shutting down schools) created policy used to keep certain children out and away from their constitutional right to a fair education.
A few years later, I became a school teacher and worked for a public school district for 5 years in predominantly black and Latino schools. The conditions were atrocious, the curriculum was demeaning, the wages deplorable and there was not a white child in sight (unless they were mentally or physically disabled or very very poor). In the land where every child is left behind, schools are segregated right now whether the Supreme Court says so or not. Whether they take another tool in placing some of these kids out of these schools or not. This country survives on the miseducation of brown and poor boys and girls, essentially to have a labor force that will not become doctors, engineers, scientists, lawyers, and business folk. Their failure is built into the system.
The policy, cultural mindset and economic racism has been in place for a long time, but today the Supreme Court made the few slightly effective attempts at desegregation, that much less possible. Despite any small scale recognition of the *positive* influence of diversity, the main staples of good old fashioned racism shine through. Helping a school out of the warped and fucked up history of injustice against black and brown people by modest proposals of “maybe we can help you out because you are brown, but ONLY if you are as qualified” crap is a drop in the bucket, when you are talking about a system that survives on the suppression of your voice.
Roberts weakly argues, that integration initiatives are somehow racist towards white children. I am so profoundly struck by the racism implicit in this statement and all I can ask is, when was the last time you stepped foot inside a school?
I did it, I taught in the trenches, I saw how bad it was, how bad it still is. Nobody listens to these teachers, to these communities, to these students, when their toilettes are overflowing and they are using history text books that still say “USSR.” Nobody gives a fuck about this nations children that go to school everyday and are afraid to walk down the street, afraid on the school yards and afraid of going home.
What these kids and communities do know is that no one wants them. No one wants to go to school with them, no one wants them in their schools and no one wants them in their communities.
So thank you, newly appointed SCOTUS, for doing so much worse than we thought you could. And for forgetting those of us in the schools and in the communities working so hard against years of racist and classist policy that has pushed us to the farthest points of our national imagination and rendered us invisible. Thank you for letting us know, we don’t need your help anymore. Because, quite frankly, we never noticed we were getting your help in the first place.

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61 Comments

  1. Genny
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 12:58 am | Permalink

    I went to a majority black school as a child, and when I was 13 we moved to a majority white rural/suburban town. The difference, not only in resources, but the attitudes of the teachers and principals themselves were astounding. My elementary school principal was blatently incompatent, broke the law at least once while my brother and I attended school there (failure to inform about a case of bacterial meningitis) and consistently failed to give his students even marginal materials for their education. My mother and other parents in my class and my brother’s class fought for years to get improvements in the school or in the leadership to no avail, the superintendent was friends with my principal and didn’t take the PTA seriously. The mother of a friend of mine, a black female army official, once offered point blank to buy the necessary textbooks for her daughter’s class, her offer was not accepted. From third grade on, I refused to go to the bathroom in school because it was so disgusting.
    Sad to say that like many people we knew at that school, my family voted with it’s feet. My brother and I were put into Catholic school for two years, and then we moved out of the county. Most middle and upper class blacks we knew had their children in private school, or were planning to move themselves. It was the poor families who were bore the weight of the school system’s utter failure, as always.
    I think sometimes about going back to teach in the schools like the one I went to as a child. But how seriously could anyone take me, as a white middle class female who went to a private university her parents could pay for? My parents were both college educated, what I didn’t learn in school I learned from them, so my school never handicapped me the way it handicapped the children whose families didn’t have the same resources.

  2. Spider Jerusalem
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 1:06 am | Permalink

    Magnet schools are forced-integration programs. I’m not sure why you think that’s a bad thing, but its the only thing that gave a lot of my friends from East L.A. access to a decent education.
    I went to a school that was 70% Latino, because of the neighborhood, and the Magnet brought in black, white, Asian, and Persian students to create diversity.

  3. Samhita
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 1:53 am | Permalink

    Spider Jerusalem–Sorry I should have clarified. When I worked in a middle school it was impossible to get my kids into the magnet schools.
    You are right though, they do allow a lot of kids that wouldn’t normally have access to that kind of education, access to it. And they attract kids from a wide geographical area.

  4. prairielily
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 2:18 am | Permalink

    Fantastic post, Samhita. This is the kind of thing that shows how brilliant you are.
    In my hometown, it was all one school district, and all the teachers were routinely shuffled from school to school. No one stayed in one place for more than 10-12 years. We all shared the same books, provided by the school board.
    I thought that’s how it was everywhere until I heard about places where all the white kids went to private school, and places where richer neighbourhoods were actually separate towns with their own school districts. I’m pretty sure that if I went to a conservative area in the US and suggested that everyone in the same city share the same resources, there would be a huge uproar.

  5. werechick
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 3:05 am | Permalink

    People do blatently racist things with school districts, and as long as they make up a BS excuse, no one does anything.
    I went to school in a district with 3 elementry schools. Two of them were predominately white, the remaining one mostly black.
    There was small black neighborhood near one of the white schools, and, according to the general pattern, it should’ve belonged to the neighboring district. The neighboring district, predominately white, made up some crap about being overfilled (not that we weren’t), and our district had it. The kids didn’t go to the white school in our district, even though it was just blocks from their homes. No. They were sent to the one black elementry school.
    The district had only one middle and high school. They pretended not to know why black kids typically hit a wall in middle and high school. They ignored the success of the few black kids that didn’t go to the one black school.
    They also pretended the whole affair had nothing to do with race.

  6. emjaybee
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 3:44 am | Permalink

    So, given that bussing/ integration wasn’t working….what would work? Would anything work?
    Is there any way to centralize funding so that schools are not penalized by their locations/tax bases? Is there any way to make the resources available to every school more equitable? I profess a vast ignorance about how schools are funded and what the solutions could possibly be.

  7. Posted June 29, 2007 at 5:55 am | Permalink

    I live in Germany and we have statewide funding for schools, they are indeed similar in quality. We also don’t have a sprawling private school industry. The two are probably conected. Of course, we have other problems with equality, also along socioeconomic class lines, but one fund works.

  8. Genny
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 5:58 am | Permalink

    emjaybee, I know in my school district’s case, it wasn’t money. Prince Georges County had a large wealth base to draw on (all those people with kids in private schools). The problem there was that about 2/3s of the school system’s employees were in administration, above the school level. That’s where the money went. Oh, and programs designed to teach us how to pass the Maryland State Assesments, which were supposed to be testing what we learned in our regular classes. My school failed regularly.
    I’d say the answer is to get loud, to speak out against racism tossed off as “districting”. To ask why there are two elementary schools less than two miles from each other, one serving a rich white neighborhood and one serving black and retarded children (this is true in my town). To find the statistics that prove the point. Beyond that, offer tutoring in the poor areas, make donations of supplies and textbooks to the teachers through Donors Choose or directly, I know they’d appreciate it.

  9. Mina
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    “I live in Germany and we have statewide funding for schools, they are indeed similar in quality.”
    I heard that Australia has the same thing and people still complain about inequality (one state having worse schools than another state).

  10. Posted June 29, 2007 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    I’m pretty sure that if I went to a conservative area in the US and suggested that everyone in the same city share the same resources, there would be a huge uproar.
    I think that if you went to progressive areas, ou’d get a similar reaction, in a lot of cases. People get crazy about schools. In the area that I live, a chunk of our property taxes go to the local schools- it’s a major source of their income. It was suggested once that perhaps it would be more equitable to create a funding pool and distribute that money equally across the entire district. The uproar within the community was tremendous- people were outraged by the idea that money would be taken from their school and given to another school. This is not a notoriously conservative community, but their mindset was “I moved here to give my kids a great education and I pay extra taxes to ensure that happens, why in the hell should I send that money to some other school? Let them pay more in taxes to increase funding.”
    Nevermind that most of the families on that side of the school district made less than half what most of the families on this side did.

  11. Posted June 29, 2007 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    Thank you for a wonderful post, Samhita.
    IMO the only way to begin to attack the problem of inequity in the school systems is to dismantle the way a community’s property taxes are used to support only those schools within that community. Property taxes ought to be pooled statewide and distributed per student capita statewide with additional funds going into schools deemed disadvantaged.
    However, I agree with RoymacIII in his analysis of public response to pooling property taxes. I used to think that everyone needed to understand how important it is for all of us to have all of us educated as well as possible. Now I think that, sadly, you may be correct that “This country survives on the miseducation of brown and poor boys and girls, essentially to have a labor force that will not become doctors, engineers, scientists, lawyers, and business folk. Their failure is built into the system.”

  12. Josh
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    A couple of comments.
    First, this decision, as with every other one that comes out of the Bush court, has a “what did you expect?” aura about it. Really, being the Worst President Ever takes quite a bit of work.
    Second, Brown was actually four cases from four different states. One was Delaware, and that was the only one where the state state court had ruled that separate-but-equal was unconstitutional. A very brave white judge who had children in public school at the time went Downstate, visited the facilities, and found that they were intolerable. Still, it wasn’t for over 20 years untl forced busing caused limited desegregation, and that also fueled a boom in the private school industry. Delaware currently has the highest percentage of students in private school of any state in the country.

  13. Barbara P
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    When I was in 2nd grade, I went to a predominately African-American school for just 1/2 a year. I got so behind that when I finally moved to a suburban school, they thought I had a learning disability or something. (I later ended up in “gifted” classes.) Later, when I was in college, I mentored at a mostly minority Jr. High school. My student’s graded math homework had a large number of the answers marked incorrectly! I was horrified, but I knew there was no one who I could alert who would care.
    So I would never dispute the inequalities in minority districts. However, I would nitpick the reasons for it. I don’t think it actually benefits anyone (including whites) for a large group of minorities to be denied education. Certainly not so in science, since the U.S. is now in a situation where we are “importing” top scientists from other nations. And as far as I can tell, with health care in the state it’s in, we could really use qualified people! What’s really happening is a matter of short-sightedness and/or apathy.
    The reason I point this out is not only because I think it’s true, but because the people who DO have the resources are much more likely to act if/when they start to realize that a quality education for everyone is really in everyone’s best interest. The problem is not simply “this isn’t fair”, but also “this is stupid”.

  14. annajcook
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    Powerful post, Samhita. This was the most depressing news yesterday, when I tuned into the BBC after work. Thanks, all of you, for giving it a personal perspective.

  15. SarahMC
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    the only way to begin to attack the problem of inequity in the school systems is to dismantle the way a community’s property taxes are used to support only those schools within that community.
    Bingo. I don’t see how the current system isn’t unconstitutional or something. It blatantly says: children of middle/upper class parents are entitled to better educations than children of lower class parents.
    The fact that communities of middle/upper class families would riot if things were equalized is depressing. How can people be so selfish? How can people with children of their own be so apathetic about other children? Do they think the country will thrive if half it’s children get sub-par educations?

  16. Posted June 29, 2007 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Great post. I knew this was what would happen once O’Connor left the Court–she was clearly the last vote in favor of allowing even the kind of modest attempts at integration that were allowed. But somehow it still shocks me.

  17. Posted June 29, 2007 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    The main problems with schools is an inequitable financing systems in many states (property taxation in Texas keeps underfunded schools perpetually so) and white flight to suburbia, which sucked all the diversity out of both the urban and the new suburban school districts.
    Busing was always going to be a superficial solution, as if taking 2 hours of any kids’ day to be on a bus all the way across town was going to solve things. But this court: treating as similar (1) taking two kids of different colors who live next door to each other and making them attend two separate schools and (2) being creative with school district lines in order to discourage racial isolation… just fucking bewildering from any legal or precedent-based standpoint.

  18. Carrie
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    I live in a majority-black neighborhood, in a city that’s about 45% black, whose public schools are not great. At one neighborhood meeting, one of my neighbors was discussing the possiblity of moving to the neighboring county, and asked how the schools were over there.
    Another one of my neighbors said “Oh, that’s a white area, so the schools are fine over there.”
    It just makes me wonder what freaking year we live in. As Get Your War On once said, “Are we fckng moving BACKWARDS in time???”

  19. Posted June 29, 2007 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    I went to public school in Louisville, Ky, for middle school and high school, which is one of the districts where the racial quotas were used to maintain diversity. I lived on the East Side, an almost 100% white area. My high school was a magnet school downtown with five different magnets, and an incredibly, wonderfully diverse population of students.
    Louisville is already a segregated city, so there is no doubt that the schools will become segregated once again, probably almost immediately starting with the upcoming fall school year. It’s sad, but it’s the truth: the white kids will stay on the white side of town and the black kids will stay on the black side of town.
    Louisville loves to promote itself as the voice of reason in ass-backwards Kentucky, but it is just as racist and backwards as it makes the rest of the state out to be. I can’t say that I’m surprised, though, with the rapid rate at which our nation is deevolving.

  20. Posted June 29, 2007 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    I went to public school in Louisville, Ky, for middle school and high school, which is one of the districts where the racial quotas were used to maintain diversity. I lived on the East Side, an almost 100% white area. My high school was a magnet school downtown with five different magnets, and an incredibly, wonderfully diverse population of students.
    Louisville is already a segregated city, so there is no doubt that the schools will become segregated once again, probably almost immediately starting with the upcoming fall school year. It’s sad, but it’s the truth: the white kids will stay on the white side of town and the black kids will stay on the black side of town.
    Louisville loves to promote itself as the voice of reason in ass-backwards Kentucky, but it is just as racist and backwards as it makes the rest of the state out to be. I can’t say that I’m surprised, though, with the rapid rate at which our nation is deevolving.

  21. BabyPop
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Samhita – thank you so much for your thoughtful comment on this case. I live in Louisville, KY and wrote a post for DM-KY on this ruling. I did not grow up here. I can’t have kids. I’m not a teacher. It is so extremely charged among people here that I just can’t even wrap my arms around it and break it down enough to articulate what I think about it. As Leigh states…it is laughable that people outside of the metropolitian area dismiss Lousiville as liberal – it’s clear that racism here is alive and thriving, whether people wear their white hoods or not. Sad.

  22. BabyPop
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Samhita – thank you so much for your thoughtful comment on this case. I live in Louisville, KY and wrote a post for DM-KY on this ruling. I did not grow up here. I can’t have kids. I’m not a teacher. It is so extremely charged among people here that I just can’t even wrap my arms around it and break it down enough to articulate what I think about it. As Leigh states…it is laughable that people outside of the metropolitian area dismiss Lousiville as liberal – it’s clear that racism here is alive and thriving, whether people wear their white hoods or not. Sad.

  23. Andie
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Before I say anything, I will say that I am a (qualified) teacher, and I teach a truly diverse population in Minneapolis.
    Having said that, didn’t this ruling simply say that school districts are not allowed to force students to go to a school outside their home district in order to “balance” racial diversity at said school? Is this not a good thing? Why should students be forced out of their neighborhoods, out of their communities, to attend school? Just because students go to the “white school” or the “black school” doesn’t always mean they’re getting a better or worse education. (Yes, we can generalize.) I don’t see how this is a negative. Is forcing “diversity” any better than allowing the students to attend their home schools, even if that “segregates” them? I don’t know, maybe I’m not getting it, but there is a much larger problem here than where students are bussed. Were there proper funding and highly qualified teachers at every school in the nation, it wouldn’t matter as much where students went. Thanks to things like No Child Left Behind (another racist institution) the funding is going to all the wrong places.

  24. noname
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    “IMO the only way to begin to attack the problem of inequity in the school systems is to dismantle the way a community’s property taxes are used to support only those schools within that community. Property taxes ought to be pooled statewide and distributed per student capita statewide with additional funds going into schools deemed disadvantaged.â€? – Grace
    How exactly would that work? Right now people move to advantaged areas expecting to pay more taxes because they want access to better schools. If you take their property taxes and pool them statewide, why wouldn’t most communities simply slash their local property taxes?
    Are you are advocating the elimination of local taxes in favor of uniform statewide taxes? I could actually see that working, although I would prefer keeping the current local system as encouragement to communities willing and able to go a step further for education but augmenting that cash flow with significantly larger federal education budget to increase the level of all schools (per student capita) to acceptable (or hopefully better) levels. You probably wouldn’t even have to raise federal taxes to accomplish significant changes in this way, you would merely have to re-direct wasteful spending (starting with Iraq $) towards an education budget for the benefit of everyone. Does this make sense?

  25. BabyPop
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Actually…this has me thinking about the school system where I did grow up. Outside of Louisville and Northern KY, the town where I grew up had the largest population of Catholics in the state, and as one, I went to Catholic schools. However, Catholic school enrollment has/was/is shrinking – went from every parish having a school, to a few consolodating, to now there are only two, plus one middle school and one high school (outside of a small parish way out in the county which has it’s own K-8 and high school.)
    In my town (maybe 50K-60K people) there were 2 school districts. City and county. The city has one high school/middle school, and the county has three (i think) middle schools and two high schools. I wonder in a town of this size how much integration play(s)(ed) into districting. I remember hearing that people who weren’t catholic and lived in the city district would try to find some way to get around the “bad” city schools and put their kids in a county school or otherwise a catholic school…
    I would like to research that, actually…

  26. mirm
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    I actually feel better about those clown’s decision knowing nothing was being done anyway. Odd but the power of those nutjobs on SCOTUS was depressing me, and showing them to be less powerful in this case does help.
    Question: Is Teach For America helping or hurting the problem?
    This country survives on the miseducation of brown and poor boys and girls, essentially to have a labor force that will not become doctors, engineers, scientists, lawyers, and business folk. Their failure is built into the system.
    Truer words never spoken.

  27. Posted June 29, 2007 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    This sucks, but it’s not as bad as it seems. Brown wasn’t working all that well. It was a great decision–but it’s been around for, what, 45+ years? And there’s still a huge separation between different districts.
    The reality is that race was/is just used as a proxy for other things: money, location, level of preschool, etc. And there’s no reason we can’t skip the proxy and fix things directly.
    When people talk about black kids in primarily black schools getting a shitty education… they’re focusing on the wrong causation. They’re not getting a shitty education because they’re in a primarily black school, they’re getting a shitty education because they’re in a academically shitty school. It is much more important (though more difficult) to make the school better than to make it more diverse.
    I despise the current USSC. But part of me is happy that the proxy system will go away. Perhaps it will actually be a good thing in the end.

  28. Kristen
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately, statewide funding is not an adequate solution. My home state has statewide funding, but the difference in the quality of schools is stunning.
    I lived in an upper-middle class neighborhood. Our public school had lots of computers, a fully stocked chem lab, a well appointed athletic center, teachers with graduate degrees, and career counselors that dogged each and every one of us about which colleges were applying to.
    My husband grew up in an inner city (if anything in Hawaii can be considered inner city) neighborhood. He school didn’t have computers, a working chem lab, current books, or teachers that spoke English and no one expected him to apply for college let alone go.
    The problem is that even if there is statewide funding…the people who affect local politics are the wealthy and they can just as easily affect school administrators to send better resources to schools in their neighborhoods.

  29. Jeremy F.
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    There are some well thought out comments here that really address the utter failure of funding schools using property tax.
    When I was in high school I remember the Latino community held a protest about immigration. It must have been extremely successful because my school was a literal ghost town that day. Segregation may not be a de facto policy but at times, you just wouldn’t know it.

  30. Posted June 29, 2007 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    You hit the nail right on the head on this one. I grew up torn in segregation. Actually, I did an entrance essay on the subject, and I’ve posted it in my blog in case anyone would like a story on first-hand encounter.
    Looking Back; Growing Up in Lampasas, Texas

  31. yesbut
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    noname:
    Maybe you don’t need to shift funding 100% into a state pool. (Although this might be the ideal, you’ll never get people to agree to it.) Treating a smaller pool as a source of equalization payments might be more practical; a transfer of some (not all) of the local tax funds for schools to a state kitty, examining how much funding schools are getting, taking an average, allotting funds from that kitty to bring as many schools as close to the average as possible. It probably wouldn’t result in a drastic decrease in quality of upper-class schools, but could be high-impact for disadvantaged schools. Maybe I’m being optimistic – I’m Canadian, and I’ll be the first to admit that state/provincial funding does still leave inequalities between schools… but nothing like what you seem to be experiencing.
    (As an aside, although people definitely get crazy about schools, I think there are lots of reasons people move into upper-class neighbourhoods. Schools are only one.)
    I suspect that most upper class schools will continue to have similar resources, almost no matter how public funding changes.

  32. Kimmy
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    A friend of mine lives in Dallas, in a reasonably wealthy area. He recently lost his apartment. They were going to tear it down (a two storey old house converted into four apartments) and build condos. Three or four storeys tall, 3 bedroom condos, way too many for that size a space. $500,000 per condo.
    I asked him why anybody would want to pay that for a tiny little condo when that same amount would get them a townhouse or better elsewhere (I’d seen signs while visiting). His response was simply to point down the street to the high school. A very wealthy high school. Most of the kids drive cars nicer than anything I’ve ever owned, and they even have a lacrosse team.
    My point was that people will do a lot of things to get their kids into the “right” school.

  33. SarahMC
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    My point was that people will do a lot of things to get their kids into the “right” school.
    And I think we should remove that incentive.
    It amounts to buying what’s supposed to be public education.

  34. noname
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    SarahMC – Why would you want to take away that incentive? Is the idea to provide a good education for everyone, or to penalize the rich? I am all for drastically increasing federal and state funding for all public schools, but why eliminate the option for individual communities to further help themselves?

  35. noname
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Yesbut – That is a reasonable solution, assuming the percentage sent to the state is small enough so as not to encourage communities to tax less for education.

  36. Posted June 29, 2007 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Public education is supposed to provide some sort of bottom line competence. Equal funding is supposed to get them there.
    However there’s no reason that others can’t supplement things. Sure, that creates inequality, but [shrug] people don’t have equal incomes, or value education equivalently.
    Sarah, you seem to be arguing for flat funding scross all schools. But it’s simply not feasible to have all schools be “top” schools without losing what it means to be “top” (just like it’s not possible to have all children be “at or above average” without lowering the meaning of “average.”)
    That said, our bottom line currently stinks.

  37. SarahMC
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    The idea is to provide a good education for everyone. Why should the quality of one’s education depend on his/her parents’ income? Public schools should be funded equally.

  38. SarahMC
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Public education is supposed to provide some sort of bottom line competence. Equal funding is supposed to get them there.
    But it’s not doing that. It’s not even trying. When schools have to ask the community for donations in the form of paper, there is a problem.

  39. Posted June 29, 2007 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Public education is supposed to provide some sort of bottom line competence. Equal funding is supposed to get them there.
    However there’s no reason that others can’t supplement things. Sure, that creates inequality, but [shrug] people don’t have equal incomes, or value education equivalently.
    Sarah, you seem to be arguing for flat funding scross all schools. But it’s simply not feasible to have all schools be “top” schools without losing what it means to be “top” (just like it’s not possible to have all children be “at or above average” without lowering the meaning of “average.”)
    That said, our bottom line currently stinks.

  40. Posted June 29, 2007 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Sarah, you seem to be arguing for flat funding scross all schools. But it’s simply not feasible to have all schools be “top” schools without losing what it means to be “top” (just like it’s not possible to have all children be “at or above average” without lowering the meaning of “average.”)

    Well, tough rocks for the top then, I think. No offense, but I think it’s bullshit that we let the majority suffer so that the minority can have access to HD monitors and PCs in every classroom, and widescreen televisions that let them video-conference with other top-tier “public” schools. If schools like the one I went to have to do without super high-speed computers in every room or have to make do with regular monitors instead of the flat-panel HD monitors they’re using now, so that other public schools can afford fucking textbooks, you’ll pardon me if I don’t exactly lose sleep over it.
    As Sarah points out: public education is supposed to be for everyone. That’s why it’s public. If someone wants to get better than what the public is offering, let them go to private schools. But, this attitude that “Well, why should the rich kids ‘suffer’ so that the poor kids actually get a decent education” is ridiculous.
    You can’t expect all children to be gifted because children are people and there are going to be differing levels of interest and ability. Schools are an institution, not a person, and we have every right to expect that public schools maintain some level of equality in regards to the quality of the education they’re providing.

  41. noname
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    SarahMC – But you do realize that the logical community response to this would be to lower taxes or allocate as little percentage of their taxes allowable to this education kitty? You would essentially be taking money out of public education and ensuring that anyone who could afford to would send their kids to private school. Why not depend on increased federal (and maybe state) funds to raise the level of all schools (remember, most federal taxes are income based, so the wealthy would in effect still be paying more for the benefit of all) and encourage communities to help themselves further with local taxes?
    I understand that you do not think any disparity in education standards is fair, but the reality of the situation is this: If you drive the wealthy (and powerful) from the public school system, it will only serve to increase the neglect the system faces today.
    (Please understand, I don’t pretend to have all the answers, here. I freely admit that I could be mistaken and openly invite criticism of my position.)

  42. noname
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    roymacIII – Unfortunately, what has been proposed here would merely eliminate the top while doing nothing for the rest. What good does that do?

  43. SarahMC
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    But you do realize that the logical community response to this would be to lower taxes or allocate as little percentage of their taxes allowable to this education kitty?
    So? Since property taxes wouldn’t be needed to support local schools, what’s the harm in lowering them? Or are you talking about state taxes?They wouldn’t want to underfund public schools because they’d realize that THEIR kids in public school would be hurt by that move just as much as strangers’ kids. Though I guess they could fix that by sending their kids to private school. Shit.

  44. Nicole
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    The solution many of you are discussing is known as the “Minnesota Miracle.” In 1971, the state reduced property taxes, increased income and sales taxes, and became the primary funding authority for local school districts (and police, fire, etc.). The idea was that poorer districts would get more from the state, and equal opportunity would be provided for all students. I’m not sure if the “miracle” part of the name refers to the fact that this policy was actually implemented, or because it made such a positive difference to K-12 education.
    Of course, the state’s recent swing to the right has meant that this system of Local Government Aid has been basically abolished, so the Minnesota Miracle is over. But for a while, it was something like the solution we’re looking for.

  45. noname
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    SarahMC – I was disagreeing with the idea of sending local education funds to a statewide fund. I am all for increasing federal or state taxes (or better yet, eliminating waste) so that more can be given to public schools. I think that is important, however, that occurs on these two levels. If done on a state or federal level, the wealthy will have no choice but to pay (as a huge majority of voters will benefit). If done on a local level, however, they will be able to vote away most public funding and invest in private education instead. You would then be left with a supposed ruling class with little to no interest in public education as a whole, which would clearly be counter-productive.

  46. Posted June 29, 2007 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Sarah/roymac, I’m hoping you’ll clarify.
    Do you feel–as I do–that the current “minimum” offered by public schools is too low? Then we agree. The level of “acceptable” basically sucks (like I said.)
    Or are you more concerned with the disparity than the levels? This makes less sense to me. It’s not a zero sum game in a fixed universe; the lacrosse team at School A isn’t responsible for the lack of textbooks at School B. There are many other ways to get School B its textbooks.
    “Public” is not a synonym for “exactly equal in every respect.” Nor should it be. It makes sense for the state to supply schools equally at a level which requires no additional support; it makes absolutely no sense to prevent communities from contributing extra to make their schools even better.

  47. Posted June 29, 2007 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Noname, you make some good points regarding taxes and funding of schools. My main point is that the way it’s done now results in inequity among school districts and encourages those who can afford to to flee poorer districts. If by some taxing mechanism, we could equalize the schools, then maybe (maybe) we would have more racially and economic diversity in more communities.
    A democracy needs an educated populace that can think critically. Just look at the 2004 elections to see the result of inadequate education!

  48. Posted June 29, 2007 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Before anyone jumps, let me acknowlege that my last comment was an aside and off-topic. Surely there is probably more than enough evidence to show that many, if not most, of those voting inthe 2004 election were from privileged schools. I don’t know. Obviously, I have my prejudices in that regard.
    I do believe that education is a national good that should be available universally.

  49. noname
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Grace – Agreed. I think I am just concentrating more on quality of education initially than diversity or equality. If we can improve the base standard of education, this would be a big step towards equality, and I think diversity would naturally follow as there would be less incentive to flee poor neighborhoods.

  50. Kalisti!
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Ha, I went to a high school where the books still had the USSR on the maps, and the elementary school I went to only got rid of the old Windows 3.1 computers a few years ago (It was a predominantly white school, but in a poorish rural area where you were hardly expected to go beyond the local community college). People still threw a shit fit every time the board tried to increase the budget and would vote down a good budget if there wasn’t enough money for sports and things. Even in that uniform state of school crappiness, it was considered a miracle if the black students tested well, much less went to college–it was pretty much assumed that they would be poor, stupid wretches working fast food jobs for the rest of their lives. One of my dear friends (black, female, and brilliant) was treated as a freak of nature because she got high grades and cared about her future without acting “white” or abadoning her ethnicity to blend in. The guidance department was baffled that hip-hop and Shakespeare could coexist in her world.
    I don’t know how race would affect this (I’m white, and fully aware of my ignorance of a lot of racial issues–it’s something I’m working on) but I definitely concur that more funding=more opportunity for everyone, and maybe if there were some more funding equality in the public school districts we wouldn’t test so damn poorly. Ah, social reproduction at work–as long as there are enough poor people to do the dirty jobs, no one actually cares about these districts.
    Sickening.

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