In 1954, Brown v. Board of Education (of Topeka) ruled that separate was not equal. The ruling allowed for the integration of students from all races and socio-economic status to receive an equal education under the same roof. But now, America's public school system is in shambles, and the poorest kids are the only ones underneath the rubble. (For example, Chicago's public schools have dwindled from 75,000 students to 25,000 students, thanks to charter schools and private schools.)
No Child Left Behind was a a complete failure.
Now, it is the duty of the administration to fix America's destroyed public education system.
The Blame Game
According to Sam Dillon's report on the Senate's education committee hearing last Tuesday, March 9th:
Charles Butt, chief executive of a supermarket chain in Texas, said employers there faced increasing difficulties in hiring qualified young workers. The blame for America's sagging academic achievement does not lie solely with public schools, Mr. Butt said, but also with dysfunctional families and a culture that undervalues education. "Schools are inheriting an over-entertained, distracted student," he said.
Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who leads the Senate Committee, picked up on that comment. "Over-entertained and distracted -- that's right," Mr. Harkin said. "The problem lies with many kids before they get to school, and if we don't crack that nut, we're going to continue to patch and fill."
We must stop blaming parents while their children suffer. Sure, parents need to step up and instill the value of education into their children; but America has a duty to provide an education to our children, regardless of their parents' values.
I speak from hands-on experience. I have worked closely with many families in Chicago's public housing projects. Most parents do not understand the value of an education because that value was not instilled in them; however, that does not mean a parent loves her child any less than the child whose parent sent him to a charter school; nor does that mean that the child is less-deserving of an opportunity to learn the value of an education at school.
The Continued Destruction
Just 24 hours after the Senate hearing, on March 10th, Kansas City closed half of its public schools. Superintendent John Covington made the decision to cut $50 million from the budget at the expense of the City's poorest children. According to Joe Robertson and Meredith Rodriguez of the Kansas City Star:
The plan will leave the district operating 33 schools, the fewest in 120 years. The district's enrollment in 1889 was less than 18,000 -- the same as its current enrollment. At its peak in the late 1960s, Kansas City was using more than 100 buildings and serving some 75,000 students.
The Superintendent's decision essentially said this: "To fix the budget, we will take money from the children who are the poorest and in the greatest need for education." Isn't it interesting that in the 5-4 decision, the 5 who voted yes to the schools' closings were all white?
Earlier this month, Chicago Public Schools officials created an "opportunity" for a whopping 100 students at Chicago's worst schools to attend the City's most competitive college-prep schools. Wendell Hutson of the Chicago Defender reports:
According to Ron Huberman, CEO of Chicago Public Schools, 336 eligible students who attend 87 under performing schools have been identified and the school will notify parents by mail.
"This process provides an unprecedented opportunity for excellent students from our lowest-performing schools to learn in our most competitive high schools," said Ron Huberman, CEO of Chicago Public Schools. "This process honors the intent of the No Child Left Behind legislation and gives meaningful choice to high-performing children at lower-performing schools."
Let's break down the numbers.
1) The "opportunity" is only available to high school students, forget pre-school and elementary school students!
2) The "opportunity" is only available to 336 "eligible" students.
3) The "opportunity" will only be given to 100 of the 336 "eligible" students.
4) The "opportunity" only allows for 25 additional students to attend just four college prep schools.
5) The rest of the 236 students will remain in the "lower-performing schools" without the same opportunity as their 100 other classmates.
6) The remaining high school population will continue on in the broken public education system.
Americans must demand equal education opportunities for all of our children. The divisiveness on the public health care reform issue cannot be carried over into the public education issue. Americans must understand that if we want to continue to compete in the world, we must educate all children equally.