Monday, May 01, 2006


Most people think the heart of the hubbub over Nebraska’s twin school controversies has to do with money.

You know: we can move more money toward poor kids, whose schools really need it, with the breakup of the Omaha Public Schools in the context of a metro-wide “learning community.” And we can save money with the forced closing of more than 200 country K-6 schools in the rural parts of the state, making those parents drive quite a few miles to and from schools in the closest cities and towns, and driving yet another stake into the heart of the local rural economy.

The problem is, both of those are based on false premises. The truth is, more spending and more consolidation of power does NOT produce better learning achievement. We’ve known that for years.

The battle cry of “equity” is cynically being used by those who just want more revenue into more tightly-controlled schools – the unions, the educrats, the politicians who want to look good on paper – while in reality, the only thing that will make schooling “equitable” is parental choice in education.

We need to follow “The Hamburger Rule.” And that is: some people would be very happy with a hamburger they make for themselves at home for a cost of, oh, 50 cents for a sweet little hand-shaped patty of two or three ounces of meat, a soft, small bun, one small, flat pickle, and a blob of ketchup. It’s nourishing, it’s tasty and it hits the spot.

But other people would only be happy if they got the mega-burger at Cheeburger Cheeburger, which has 20 ounces of meat on a gigantic bun, with 20 free toppings and eight different cheeses, for $9.99. It also is nourishing, tasty and hits the (presumably much larger) spot.

To each his own! There’s a whole, big, wide spectrum of choice in hamburgers everywhere in this state. You’ve got the homemade kind, the fancy-schmancy ones in the country clubs, the rubberized ones in the vending machines at the office, mouth-watering ones grilled before your eyes, and on and on and on the diversity goes.

That’s the POINT. Everybody is happy, and everybody gets to choose.

Yes, some cost more and some cost less. But everybody is happy with their choice, and over the long run, in a free market, you tend to be better off, more satisfied, and lots less likely to pick up a placard and protest for “equity.”

So how come if we’re smart enough to give people free choice in hamburgers, we can’t figure out that what they need in the most important public-service of all, their children’s education, is also free choice?

The people trying to convince you that the only way to get “equity” in our schools is to break up OPS, establish the “learning community” and kill the Class I schools are dead meat, if people would just stop and think. Parental choice in education – home, public, private, co-op, Internet, and all the combinations thereof – that should be the main course right now.

Today’s “Show ‘n’ Tell for Parents” column tells you more about the philosophy behind the OPS push for “equity.” They brought Mr. Kozol to Omaha for a speech; wonder whether they let him CHOOSE where to have lunch, or made him go to the school cafeteria for a Mystery Meat Burger?


The Lie of ‘Inequitable School Funding’

Q. How come Jonathan Kozol was listed in a recent book as one of the 100 Americans who are wrecking this country? I thought his work exposing the problems of inner-city schools has been extremely helpful to improving the educational outcomes of inner-city children. Not so?

You’re referring to the longtime education author and activist whose 1990s book, “Savage Inequalities,” inspired a barrage of equity lawsuits by public school districts against states.

Districts with a disproportionate share of low-income pupils have sought, and often won, larger amounts of tax dollars for education than middle-class schools receive. Billions in extra federal and state tax dollars have been poured into inner-city schools since the 1960s because of the claim that disadvantaged kids were being discriminated against by school financing systems that reward the rich.

Of course, that ignores the overwhelming evidence by educational economists such as Caroline Hoxby of Harvard and Eric Hanushek of the University of Rochester, now Stanford. The evidence shows that racial and class disparities in academic achievement are caused by factors other than money.

When children aren’t getting the basic skills but can’t escape the monopoly schools, the politicized rules of the teachers’ unions, and the erroneous but widespread leftist philosophies of the teachers’ colleges influenced by progressive icons such as Jonathan Kozol, you can spend double or triple the amount of money per child, and they still won’t do as well.

Most everyone outside the education establishment agrees that it’s not the amount of funding that is causing the disparities in academic achievement between black and white, rich and poor – but the abandonment of the teaching of basic skills in inner-city schools by leftist educators who think schools are for social change, not instructing children in the 3 R’s.

Kozol’s book “On Being a Teacher,” which is popular in ed schools, was based on his study of the school system in communist Cuba. Those schools teach the “deconstruction” of knowledge and skills that is used in communist propaganda. These radically anti-intellectual and anti-individualistic ideas have infiltrated U.S. schools today. They appear in the form of whole language and whole math instead of direct instruction in basic reading and math skills, the coronation of group projects and “cooperation” and an abhorrence of competition, and an insistence on “academic leveling” in which no child can excel and no child can fall behind.

That’s educational Marxism, but few educators realize it. The parents who “get it” are increasingly moving their children to private schools and homeschools.

Kozol was ranked ninth in the book “100 Americans Who are Screwing Up America” by former CBS News correspondent Bernard Goldberg (Medium Cool Communications, 2005).
Ironically, Kozol’s 1967 book, “Death at an Early Age,” which implied that there was widespread institutional racism in urban schools, was a key instigator of court-ordered busing. Busing wound up making urban schools much more segregated, and academically and financially shakier, than they were before.

Homework: Writer Sol Stern gives an in-depth look at Kozol’s impact on:

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