Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Where is preventive maintenance?

Half of our public school children are currently from low-income families.  That's about 25 million kids.   It is also true that about half of our public school kids are children of color.   NO these two groups are not coincidental and I think that is the common wisdom.
About 10% of school age children attend private schools.   I think it is safe to say that these kids are probably not low-income with the few exceptions of scholarship kids.   The cost of attending a privates school only starts with tuition so you need to have enough discretionary funds in your budget to cover all those private school extra costs such as transportation, uniforms, some instructional texts and technology.
But what about that 50% of public school children who come from low-income families.   What do we do about them .  Poor is not necessarily the problem.   Sure poor is hardly a benefit, but the real problem is experience and investment in a child's education.  That investment starts with families and communities.   Families need to give kids cultural experiences and teach them that school is a very high value for the family and the community.   That starts with not keeping a child home from school to babysit a younger sibling and not making doctor's appointments on school days.
Vermont, a state with the fewest number of poor children, spends the most per child of any state.  Mississippi and Arizona spend the least per child and have the most children of high poverty.  I don't think there is a causation re: spending less creating more poor kids, but I DO think that the low per pupil expense certainly demonstrates the value of education to the legislators in those states.  Shame on them.
Maryland spends among the highest in per pupil expense.   The next question needs to be, where is that money going.   If we are spending it all to raise salaries, that isn't going to improve instruction.   Poor kids need cultural experiences.   They need someone to read to them at night, they need to go places like museums and zoos.  Low-income schools would do well to have community managers.  These people would organize church groups, community groups and family groups.  These groups could teach parents how to make sure their children had a better life.  The individual members of the group could take children to good movies and story time in libraries.  The groups could join to raise money to provide technology in homes, iPads and WiFi service.
It can't be all school investment. And it shouldn't be investing millions of taxpayer dollars to create more and better tests for these kids to do poorly on.   Those dollars would be much better spent on preventive maintenance.  Just think of what some good community organizers could have done with that money instead of spending it on tests.   Instead of complaining about how unskilled high school grads are and deciding we could fix that with more tests, how about we not wait until the tires fall off the car to check the tread and wheel alignment.

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