Sunday, October 20, 2013

Income inequality seems to match learning gaps. Who knew?

I have no problem with people getting rich.  Nope.  I’ll all for everyone living the Daddy Warbucks dream while sipping champagne and eating the finest caviar that you can afford.  Get rich and do what you want with your money.  However, you don’t get to bitch when crime, poverty, and over standard-of-living goes down because you decided not to invest in your country.  If you get the opportunity to get rich, others should have that same opportunity.  Yet since 1978ish it seems that social mobility has taken a nose dive and income divisions have become more than visible, they have become a social drag.

A majority of public school children in 17 states, one-third of the 50 states across the nation, were low income students – eligible for free or reduced lunches – in the school year that ended in 2011. Thirteen of the 17 states were in the South, and the remaining four were in the West. Since 2005, half or more of the South’s children in public schools have been from low income households. 

During the last two school years, 2010 and 2011, for the first time in modern history, the West has had a majority of low income students attending P-12 public schools. 

So I guess this means that “California Dreamin” has a little hiccup.  Those of us that live in much of California have known this for awhile and didn’t need the Southern Education Foundation to tell us that much has changed in the last twenty years.  Here in Ukiah the Free and Reduced Lunch rate is hovering somewhere near 75%.  That’s not something that happened over night.  That’s been developing over the course of the last ten years, and local government has been totally ignoring it.

So, what do?

I’ve mentioned since the beginning of this blog that education funding needs to be taken seriously, and that the current funding method does next to nothing for poor and rural school districts.  This recession was a killer for rural California.  Depressed home values and drained state coffers created a toxic situation in which entire programs were destroyed (arts, music, vocational tech) and new programs never had a chance to come to fruition.  Now’s the time to seriously invest in human capital.  We already have one partial generation of kids that had a school with severe cuts that limited student achievement.  We can get serious and prevent the now evidenced move towards a more stratified society.

And if this report doesn’t move you to action, try Berkeley and Harvard.  The public policy angle on education is startling, including the statistic that we just don’t fund poor schools to near the capacity of other industrialized nations.  Local funding helps the Los Altos and Orinda schools while the Covelo and Oroville schools get kicked in the teeth.  It’s time to get our head out of our asses that everything in schools is the fault of the teacher and start treating the real problem within education and society; taking education seriously.  And it can start by attacking the issue of poverty. 

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