Wednesday, May 12, 2004


The horribly low turnout in Tuesday’s election, and the Pavlovian-style salivating over the financial implications for Nebraska school districts from a Kansas court ruling, have a direct connection.

1. Everybody’s so overwhelmed with the stuff of life, they can’t even fulfill their basic bedrock duty as a citizen and get out and vote.

2. Politicians know this, and therefore are letting activist judges dictate how tax dollars will be spent so that they won’t have a tangible record that might -- gasp! -- awaken the sleeping giant called the American voting majority.

The Kansas ruling held that the way tax dollars are split up among school districts in that state is unfair, in part because of increased demands in services for low-income, minority and immigrant children which outstrip the funding formula’s flexibility.

In Nebraska, the Omaha Public Schools is propagating a lawsuit against our taxpayers, arguing essentially the same thing.

So . . . even though there’s a giant achievement gap between low-income, minority and immigrant children, and children who do not have any of those factors, and that gap has been around for a long time and is getting worse, not better, despite beaucoup, beaucoup more bucks being spent on this problem . . . despite the obvious . . . nobody is blaming the WAY schools spend the money?

Just blaming the taxpayers for not giving them ENOUGH?

If the electorate weren’t so apathetic, that kind of stuff would never fly.

The lawsuit we SHOULD be seeing is one filed AGAINST school districts like OPS, to expose the reasons for the achievement gap.

It’s not that they don’t have enough money. They have more than enough. It’s that they’re using the wrong methodology, especially in those early grades.

Court decisions like the one in Kansas are guaranteed to just force us to throw more money on this fire. If Nebraska judges don’t understand this, we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of big districts such as Kansas City. It wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on things that didn’t matter in schools, making luxury mausoleums out of them, while the inner-city, minority and immigrant children fell farther and farther behind other kids for one simple reason: they weren’t getting the basics in the early grades.

I don’t blame the judges. They do the best they can. I do blame the apathetic public, and the politicians, for letting the educators get away with this for so long.

Aren’t there any public-interest lawyers or low-income parents in Nebraska with the backbone to take this to court?

So few even had the get-up-and-go to go vote . . . it’s sad to think that apathy may be what makes education “get up and go” from the reach of our neediest children.

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