Carpe Diem

If you really care about income inequality, you need only focus on one thing: the inequality of educational opportunity

From John Goodman’s excellent post today “Silence of the Left” (emphasis added):

The topic du jour on the left these days is inequality. But why does the left care about inequality? Do they really want to lift those at the bottom of the income ladder? Or are they just looking for one more reason to increase the power of government?

If you care about those at the bottom then you are wasting your time and everyone else’s time unless you focus on one and only one phenomenon: the inequality of educational opportunity. Poor kids are almost always enrolled in bad schools. Rich kids are almost always in good schools.

So what does the left have to say about the public school system? Almost nothing. Nothing? That’s right. Nothing. I can’t remember ever seeing an editorial by Paul Krugman on how to reform the public schools. So I Googled to see if I have missed something. The only thing I found was a negative post about vouchers. And Krugman is not alone.

You almost never see anything written by left-of-center folks on reforming the public schools. And I have noticed on TV talk shows that it’s almost impossible to get liberals to agree to the most modest of all reform ideas: getting rid of bad teachers and making sure we keep the good ones.

MP: If the left was really concerned about income inequality, the inequality of educational opportunity, and solutions to those important issues, they would be focusing their attention on education success stories like the Success Academy charter schools operating in New York City, featured recently on CD. The table below highlights the phenomenal educational results at four of the Success Academy charter schools in Harlem, where 96% of the students are minority (black and Hispanic) and 78% are from low-income households that qualify for free lunch, and yet those charter schools are ranked academically higher than about 97% of all schools in New York state based on standardized test assessments in math and reading.

What’s the response from the left to the proven success achieved by Success Academy charters? New York’s super-liberal mayor has started his war on the city’s charter schools that he promised as part of his campaign platform, and Paul Krugman remains silent.

Success Academy Charters Grades Black (%) Hispanic (%) Free Lunch (%) Statewide Performance (%)
Harlem Success Academy 1 K-6 80.1 17 77.7 97
Harlem Success Academy 2 K-4 77.9 20 75 96.8
Harlem Success Academy 3 K-4 64.3 30.9 80 97.5
Harlem Success Academy 4 K-5 73.5 20 78.5 97.1

40 thoughts on “If you really care about income inequality, you need only focus on one thing: the inequality of educational opportunity

  1. The left rejects any solution for which the answer is not “more government control”. THAT is the objective. The drumbeat about “inequality” is simply a ruse toward that end (and more recently a way of trying to divert attention form Obamacare).

    • further, the left’s answer is always “we need more money” and “schools are badly underfunded”.

      this is complete tripe.

      we spend about $11k per year per public school pupil.

      that is $220k per class of 20.

      can any serious person claim that $220k is not enough money to educate 5th graders for 9 months?

      the issue is that money is badly used, bureaucracy and deadweight are rampant, and teachers unions fight tooth and nail against measuring results and merit based pay.

      the reason the left must oppose vouchers and charter schools so ferociously is that if they allow the success of such examples to become clear, then their whole “we need more money” narrative is demolished.

      thus, they are actually in the business of opposing anyhting that actually works as it threatens their entrenched position.

      this is a disastrous outcome for US kids and one we desperately need to overcome.

      • you do love your straw men robbie.

        one does not need a teachers union to suffer from the leftist issues, administrative bloat, and to shut down any sort of competitive system.

        it just helps.

        but absent a union, you just take over the school boards at state and local levels and create miles and miles of red tape.

        we already have the solutions in hand to make us schools work.

        allow choice and demand competition.

        every kid gets a voucher worth 11k, and schools have to compete for them.

        we would have the best schools on the planet in a decade for zero additional costs.

        look at the huge gains finland made just by freeing up schools and allowing them to make their own choices on how and what to teach. this is not rocket science.

        instead, the left hijacks education and we go in the wrong direction.

        the DC voucher system was thriving (and was cheaper than PS), so what happened? they shut it down. they are going after charter schools the same way.

        • “The right loves vouchers because it’s way to re-segregate schools and to introduce religious teaching, ban science teaching, etc. ”

          choice is oppression!

          man robert, you are one scary statist.

          oh, an i note that the vouchers in DC went predominantly to black students and allowed them to go to private schools.

          so, it appears another of your absurd tropes fails to line up with reality.

          seriously, where do you get this crap?

          there is somehting badly broken in your head somewhere.

        • At least in Ohio, none.

          “There is little connection between how much money Ohio teachers make and how much knowledge they impart to students over the course of a single year, according to a StateImpact Ohio/Plain Dealer analysis of a new measure of teacher performance.

          “In fact, that analysis of state data shows that within many school districts, teachers who received the lowest grade in a key aspect of teacher performance known as value-added are paid more on average than teachers who earned the highest grade.”

          In unionized public schools teachers get paid for seniority, not for performance.

        • man robert, you are one strikescary statist.

          how about “man robert, you are one scary statist funny troll.”

          It’s hard to imagine that anyone could be as ridiculously low information and illogical as Robert pretends to be.

      • Iowa is number 1-3 depending on the survey. It has tea hers unions but little participation because it is a right to work state.

        I think the more interesting survey is to look at how much states spend per pupil. The lowest paying states are at the top. The highest tend to be at the bottom.

      • Bravo, Robert. You have courage to try to tell a story that doesn’t fit AEI’s preordained “solutions”: government bad, private enterprise is good. And whenever private enterprise is found to have failed it is inevitably because big, bad government has interfered, intervened and made it all happen. Only one case in point, although there are many: blaming the housing collapse on the government because of CRA. Analysis will show it’s because of lying, cheating and greed in falsifying mortgages (overwhelmingly NOT CRA mortgages) and basically the deregulation of banks.

        Keep it up.

    • Gallup finds that nearly three-quarters of Americans see big government as a threat. Has it occurred to you that “the right” may be reflecting the preferences of the population? No, I’m sure it hasn’t.

    • Nice to know we now have 100 states! I live in the south and this rant it just so weak. I take it you have never lived in the south or you would know how silly your rant is, or maybe you just have problems with seeing the obvious.

  2. “A child from the lowest quintile who goes to college has less of a chance of making it to the top 10% than a child already IN the top 10% who DOESN’T go to college.”

    and your evidence for that is what?

    oh, did you forget to normalize the series for educational attainment before you looked at income vs parents and leave out how much more likely it is that you go to college if your parents did?

    you are just making stuff up and shoveling drivel.

    talk about a zero information troll.

    seriously, how does one get so brainwashed?

    • “A child from the lowest quintile who goes to college has less of a chance of making it to the top 10% than a child already IN the top 10% who DOESN’T go to college.”

      Oh, well I guess if the poor child doesn’t make it into the top 10%, as opposed to, say, the top 25%, then all hope is lost. And did the poor child just sign up for a few classes, or did he graduate? In what field of study?

  3. The most interesting feature of the Ken Burns TV series on the Civil War was the letters written home by the soldiers. These men, generally the product of the one-room rural schools of that era, with teachers who were the wives and daughters of farmers down the road, could express themselves in a competent manner that is virtually unknown today. The US public education system is a failure by any measure.

    • By what standard?
      Asian students excel coming through public schools.
      If today’s soldiers are not as literate as Civil War doldiers is that a problem?
      There are some issues with vouchers.
      Madrassas?
      Escuela Reconquista?
      A. Hitler Prep?
      Creationism Finishing High?
      Well, we would get more diversity in education…

      • benji-

        ah yes, let’s let the government and not the individuals make choices.

        once more, your statist colors show through.

        remember this next times someone laughs at you when you try to call yourself a libertarian and realize that they are right.

        • No, Morgan, poor benighted Morgan:
          Using private dollars, do as you wish.
          Use my tax money to build “Madrassa Kill the Jews”?
          Sorry, I’ll take neighborhood schools…

      • There are some issues with vouchers.
        Madrassas?
        Escuela Reconquista?
        A. Hitler Prep?
        Creationism Finishing High?
        Well, we would get more diversity in education…

        You would instead limit the choices of poor people? Rich people can already send their children to those schools.

        • ah, yes they can (never mind the question of whether they do or not) BUT if they do, it is NOT with public money and it is not with money taken from the system that serves the public.

  4. Poor kids are almost always enrolled in bad schools. Rich kids are almost always in good schools.

    I hold no brief for teachers’ unions, but suppose the rich kids and the poor kids just swapped schools one day. I predict a drastic and immediate decline in the quality of the “good” schools and a sharp, rapid upturn in the performance of the “bad” schools.

    • If you swapped white or asian schools for black schools we’d see the same thing. We’re not supposed to talk about that, though.

    • Well we do have those voucher schools in NYC and Oakland that are teaching poor student on vouchers and grossly outperforming the regular school. Maybe you would get different outcomes switching races – but the outcome for minorities is not guaranteed to be poor.

      • Marque,

        I’d like to know for sure apples are being compared to apples regarding Success Academy’s performance vs. public schools, or if this is a case of selection bias. It’s not really a fair competition if the charter school is getting rid of the bad apples while the public school doesn’t have the same latitude. I googled around a little, and there seems to be some of that going on at Success Academy.

        And note I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to separate the wheat from the chaff. The students who want to learn should be separated from the punks who disrupt the environment.

        • Of course there is selection bias. You have to APPLY to charter schools (NYC charters have about 4:1 applicants to enrollment). “Punks” are not terribly likely to apply to a school that isn’t going to tolerate their behavior preferences.

          • Sam,

            Ok, then is it really fair to say, “…and yet those charter schools are ranked academically higher than about 97% of all schools in New York state based on standardized test assessments in math and reading.”

            Of course they are going to show a higher avg since they don’t have future residents of the state penitentiary dragging down their performance.

          • It’s utterly fair. What part of that quote is not true? Maybe I’m missing something, but if I were a parent trying to maximize the probability of my child’s academic achievement, I wouldn’t much care if the charter schools got their results by selecting only people who were willing to wear purple uniforms.

          • Sam,

            As I pointed out, this doesn’t appear to be a comparison of apples to apples. Suppose you and I are competing in a race and I win. Would it be fair to consider that you were forced to attach a ball and chain to one of your legs during the race?

            And what if I said, “I won the race. What part of that is not true?”

          • Paul

            I can’t believe you are questioning this. There’s just nothing that will make you happy, is there? :)

            The indication is that keeping punks out of school allows the rest to perform well. Surprise, surprise. If that’s what helps, it should be continues and expanded. There’s no reason kids who don’t want to learn and who prevent others from learning should be in classes at all.

            There may be any number of reasons why Success academies get better results, and punklessness could be one of them. I’m not sure we should try to compare apples, but instead try to determine what makes Success different so it can be emulated elsewhere.

            For parents and students who care, it’s important that they have choices. For those who don’t care, it doesn’t make any difference.

          • Paul

            Suppose you and I are competing in a race and I win. Would it be fair to consider that you were forced to attach a ball and chain to one of your legs during the race?

            And what if I said, “I won the race. What part of that is not true?”

            It’s more like I came to the race with one leg and YOU were forced to wear the ball and chain to compensate. When you were freed from that handicap and we ran again separately, your true potential shone through. I ran the same slow race in both cases.

          • Ron,

            There may be any number of reasons why Success academies get better results, and punklessness could be one of them. I’m not sure we should try to compare apples, but instead try to determine what makes Success different so it can be emulated elsewhere.

            I’m saying the same thing. How much of this is curriculum and teaching methods, and how much of it is simply shedding the dead weight? I have zero background in teaching, but let me run the program and I could show major improvement also using the latter method. Anyone could. However, the story is being spun with the implication that Success Academy can take any group of delinquents and turn them into future Ivy Leaguers. Sorry, ain’t gonna happen. Nature and/or nurture are the major players here.

          • Paul

            I’m saying the same thing. How much of this is curriculum and teaching methods, and how much of it is simply shedding the dead weight?

            There are no doubt many things that work toward academic achievement at Success Academies and other charter schools. Punklessness is certainly an important one, that goes without saying, and that alone would raise achievements at any school.

            I notice that not all charters have the same high achievement rates however, so there must be something else at work also, as it seems likely that most other charters are punk-free also.

            Nature and/or nurture are the major players here.

            I agree. Students whose parents care enough to choose what they hope is a better school for their children are automatically several steps ahead of those who don’t have that advantage.

          • Ron,

            I notice that not all charters have the same high achievement rates however, so there must be something else at work also, as it seems likely that most other charters are punk-free also.

            Then that would be an apples to apples comparison.

    • You identify a problem with education that the right doesn’t often mention — not everyone values it the same, which is no different than any other product or service.

      Charters are a good way to give an immediate option to those who do value it, but are stuck with those who don’t.

      Charters could eventually find ways to offer educational opportunities to those who don’t value it now, but that will be tougher if the charters are forced to deliver the same curriculum that is currently not valued.

  5. An honest person will stop being a Democrat when they evaluate all the failures, extremely high costs, and sometimes bankruptcies of liberal programs. Subprime housing collapse, food prices (ethanol), energy, medicine, education, social insecurity and Medicare (Ponzi schemes).

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