Monday, May 09, 2005

equality in education is a bad thing

I'll post the full essay in the comments.

Outline

I. Striving for education equality is bad politics and policy.
II. Policy
A. It doesn't work to make education more equal.
B. It diverts resources from things that could make education better.
C. It cedes the initiative to the Right who seek to undermine public education.
III. Politics
A. People don't want education to be equal.
B. Liberals don't seek average schools.
C. Lower-middle income "Whites" realize the most likely path to equality is to reduce the quality of education for their kids to match the quality provided to Blacks, immigrants and the poor.
IV. Why does Dem Party focus on equality?
A. Teachers unions
1. Like more money for contracts.
2. Avoids uncomfortable changes.
B. Identity politics liberals
1. Avoid dealing with discipline issues.
2. Allow IPLs to feel morally superior.
V. Quality education: society's leaders should discuss what skills and experiences should be part of a quality education.
What do you think?

18 Comments:

Blogger Carl Nyberg said...

___Striving for equality in education is a bad thing. It’s bad politics and bad policy.
___Education activists should shift from pushing for equality to just plain quality.
___The push for equality in education fails the most basic policy test. It hasn’t worked. It’s been over fifty years since the Supreme Court decided Brown vs. the Board of Education. Desegregating the schools was the big success of education equality movement. Since legal segregation was eliminated 30 years ago, what can the equality movement point to as its big policy success? Has it “closed the gap”? By its own definition of success the movement has been a failure.
___The education equality movement hurts education because of the opportunity cost. Academics, authors and activists put their energy and talent into pushing equality instead of pushing quality. Liberals are fond of the Eisenhower quote that says money spent on military hardware diverts resources from human needs. It’s the same with resources spent pushing education equality. Instead of pushing something that doesn’t work those resources could be put into getting children better educations.
___Not only does society sacrifice opportunities when the liberals push equality, but they empower the Right Wing to push its education agenda. The Right Wing activists seek to reduce the public commitment to education through vouchers and charter schools. Attacking public education is good politics for the Right. It allows them to bring the churches, segregationists, the affluent and suburban voters together on an issue that, if successful, will reduce the teachers union money that flows into Democratic political campaigns.
___Why is pushing equality in education bad politics? People don’t want it! Let me repeat: Americans don’t want an education system optimized around equality. You can label them racist or immoral for their preference, but it’s the way things are. Thirty years of liberals scolding Americans about education equality hasn’t convinced people. Continued scolding isn’t going to work either.
___The liberal scolding about equality seems insincere because the biggest scolds all send their children to school systems significantly better than the average school system. Even the professional scolds hired to make the case to the public live in communities like Oak Park. OK, if equality is so good, why don’t the people pushing education equality send their children to school in average quality school systems? Or is equality more of a virtue when the affluent liberal elite prescribe it as a solution to the rest of the citizenry?
___Democrats frequently invoke the idea that lower-middle income “Whites” vote against their interests when they vote Republicans. Democrats consider these people stupid or racist. But maybe lower-middle income “Whites” understand their interests.
___Lower-middle income “Whites” realize there are two ways to achieve equality. Society could raise the quality of education for Blacks, immigrants and the poor. But it’s easier to achieve equality by reducing the quality for kids in the middle. (Disability advocates have been very successful at diverting resources from mainstream children to children with “special needs”.)
___Lower-middle income “Whites” aren’t naïve. They know that the children of the upper middle-class aren’t going to be brought down to the level of Blacks, immigrants and the poor. Lower-middle income “Whites” realize that embracing equality is a significant risk to the quality of their children’s education with no benefit to them besides the abstraction of making America more equal.
___Why does the Democratic Party and allied liberal interests push equality in education? It’s the same reason the Republicans like vouchers. Teachers unions and liberal intellectuals can agree upon education equality. It promises more money to schools which means more money for teacher salaries. And it allows liberals to scold Americans for being racist which makes them feel morally superior.
___Pushing quality education would be more divisive in the Democratic coalition. Acknowledging existing problems and proposing solutions will cause members of the Democratic coalition to fight with each other. Identity politics liberals would prefer to be ignorant of the disciplinary problems in schools. And the teachers unions would prefer to ignore the large number of teachers that are burnt-out or unqualified.
___What would a quality education look like? I’ve got my ideas, but I’d settle for society’s leaders acknowledging the need to have this debate. What skills and experiences should a public education provide? Equality is neither a skill nor an experience.

1:47 PM  
Blogger Carl Nyberg said...

I heard John Lukehart of Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities interviewed on WBEZ's 848 this morning. The interview was about a new report LCMOC has done titled The Segregation of Opportunities: The Structure of Advantage
and Disadvantage in the Chicago Region
.

The audio of the interview has not been posted yet. It should be up tomorrow.

1:52 PM  
Blogger Roy said...

I know we may have different political opinions, but all the same I have to say that your assertion that school vouchers are really a scheme to reduce Democrats political contributions is, well, laughable.

I do agree with your quality over equality argument. It seem s a straightforward extension to advocate abolishing programs like affirmative action and Title IX. They are explicitly diverting funds from quality into equality.

Also, from a personal note, you say "You can label them racist or immoral for their preference, but it’s the way things are." It doesn't tell me you care about the children, because this is about more than politics and empowering the "right".

Also, why do you put "Whites" in quotes, but not "blacks"?

5:35 PM  
Blogger Bill Baar said...

When you write "equality" do you mean equal expenditures per student? If so, I would favor that.

As far as quality goes, I'd like to see uniformly high quality education.

I think competition fosters high quality. So I'm ok with vounchers.

6:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem with equal funding of education is that the monies are frequently misused by the school systems that get the "equalized" funding.

HB and SB 750 are examples of this.
The concept of this bills is that
there will be a (small and temporary) reduction in property taxes for an substantial (2 percent) increase in income tax, with monies to go to increase per pupil funding.
If this proposed legislation is passed, many if not most West suburban dwellers will see their net income/property taxes go up substantially, yet the extra monies will leave the community to "equalize" per pupil funding elsewhere. They will see no benefit at all.

And what will the fortunate recipient communities do with the money? Build a new sports stadium?
Further inflate teacher and administrator salaries and abusive teacher pension schemes? Increase the number of often politically connected "support" staff? There is no accountability. We can be certain, however, that only a portion of the extra monies will actually go to the education of the children.

Among the primary advocates for these tax schemes are wealthy liberals who have the least to lose from an increase in taxes.

Taxpayers need to be sure they understand what HB and SB 750 and similar schemes mean for them personally and for their local communities. For most in the Western suburbs, they mean an increase in taxation and no increase in local school funding.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Carl Nyberg said...

Bill, could you describe an equal funding plan you would support?

Bill, please consider the possibility the GOP isn't playing the game in good faith on vouchers.

Let's say the GOP gives vouchers of the amount equal to the average spent on public school education in Illinois.

(If you study the details the GOP tends to pitch vouchers more like the cost of the average Catholic School, which is much less than public education costs.)

Say the average is $10,000. Schools that don't want students with poor parents will set their tuition enough above the voucher amount to screen out the riff-raff.

This is why vouchers appeal to the segregationists in the GOP. They want the option of keeping their kids away from poorer kids in school.

Vouchers will not promote equality. They will increase inequality by segregating the schools by parental wealth.

11:31 AM  
Blogger Carl Nyberg said...

Black is an ethnic identity that is relatively fixed. If you go back 100 years or 200 years the definition of Black, if not the label, is constant within the U.S. system.

"White" is a synthetic identity with no basis in genes or physiology.

Fifty years ago Jews weren't "White".

A hundred years ago Catholics weren't "White".

150 years ago the Irish weren't "White".

Ten years ago I heard a Canadian anglo-phone use "White" to exclude Canadian francophones.

Mexican-Americans may or may not be "White", but this isn't a matter of skin tone, but clothing and accent.

The only constant in the definition of "White" is that it doesn't include Blacks. It's a construct that serves to differentiate how people are treated. "Whites" get treated better by the establishment in most situations.

11:37 AM  
Blogger Carl Nyberg said...

Y, do you disagree with the observation teachers unions give more to Democrats?

Do you disagree that Republicans would like to reduce the money contributed to Democrats?

11:39 AM  
Blogger Roy said...

I don't disagree that teacher unions are overwhelmingly democratic. What I take exception to is your cynical assertion that education policy should be geered towards maximizing political contributions.

The tone of your essay strikes as race baiting as well. If you wont pin down what you mean by "white" why are you explicitly drawing contrasts between "white" and black?

12:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Race baiting? I think Carl does pin down what he means by white. He's describing an ugly reality, but I don't really see that as race baiting.

4:29 PM  
Blogger Roy said...

Well, if you think defining white as: "a synthetic identity that changes with time whose only constant is that it does not include black" is pinning it down, well, we respectfully disagree.

Furhtermore, the definition of race baiting I am working with is: "Race baiting is the act of using racially derisive language, actions or other forms of communication to anger or intimidate a person or groups of people, or to make those persons behave in ways that are inimical to their personal or group interests. The term race in this context can be construed very broadly to include the social constructs which define race or racial difference, as well as ethnic, religious, gender and economic differences." This essay pits blacks vs. whites with the ulterior motive to empower teachers unions and ostensibly the democratic party. Tell me if I'm wrong.

4:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To approach equality in education resources have to be moved from one part of the state to other parts. Resources (wealth) is moved around through all sorts of programs, such as roads, support of universities, etc. One major loss of IL resources to other states goes thru military expenditures. There is no 'fair' solution because the groups an individual shares collective interest with changes according to diverse groupings and circumstances. Higher property taxes have a bigger impact on individuals with low income, while income taxes obviously impact individuals with higher incomes. A diverse mix of taxes is needed because taxes are a major way government manipulates behavior of its citizens.
Dennis

5:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dennis may be right, be citizens in suburbs like Oak Park and other well off but not wealthy suburbs don't have to cave in and let themselves be manipulated. We can let our state senators and reps know our concerns including, in Oak Park anyway, under SB and HB 750, major increase in property/income tax net amount for most citizens with the monies going to Chicago and downstate. I don't know much about downstate but there is such huge corruption in Chicago that any monies we send there will undoubtedly go to whatever the equivalent to the Hired Truck program is in their school bureaucracy. It will not go to the kids.

9:00 AM  
Anonymous Vasyl said...

Carl, I think you're mischaracterizing the debate over education funding. Even with SB/HB750, there will be differences in the amount of school funding. The proposal doesn't mandate equal funding. Rather, it proposes a minimum level of funding that allows for quality education. School districts that choose to spend more, and are willing to accept the tax burden, will be free to do so.

But it's hard to argue that some Illinois school district can provide a quality education without increasing the funding level.

And if the worst schools in Illinois get enough funds to provide a quality education, we all win, even those suburbanites that will see some of their tax money exported. A better educated population attracts high quality economic opportunities.

There is one commenter that has me a bit perplexed. An anonymous poster at 9:15am wrote:

Among the primary advocates for these tax schemes are wealthy liberals who have the least to lose from an increase in taxes.

Huh? Wealthy people have the least to lose if their taxes go up? I know that Illinois does not have a tremendously progressive tax system, but I do know that 5% of $150,000 equals a hell of a lot more than 5% of $15,000.

If Anonymous 9:15 wants to propose a more progressive Illinois income tax, so that people earning $150,000+ will bear more of the tax burden under this plan, count me in!

1:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wealthy liberals have proportionately more disposable income and higher tax rates cut into this disposable income, not into income required to survive. The cutoff amount is debatable ($150,000 seems a little low to raise a family, pay college tuition, and fund ones own retirement). Of course, teachers and local, state and federal employees don't have to worry about the retirement part--the rest of us pay for their very comfortable retirement, in addition to paying for our own, which is likely to be far less comfortable.

In Oak Park, many decision-makers
not only make more than 150k, they enjoy or are looking forward to millions from inheritance. These people aren't going to suffer the slightest bit from a tax increase.
It's one less designer suit for them, at most.

Happily, it appears that the tax swap won't make it to a vote this session, but the liberals and inner-city activists and education bureaucracy are not going to let it go away. They'll be back next year, if not next session.

And, yes, I'm for taxing the rich more, the really rich, but I think that would take an amendment to the Illinois constitution?

I'm also for eliminating some of the major pension abuses such as end of career salary hikes and free health care for spouses. If spouses of school district employees are to receive health benefits they should pay for them. It's still a bargain.

9:24 AM  
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