Poor Children in Poor and Wealthy Districts

The Center for Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington has published a thoughtful and carefully documented report on school funding, School Funding’s Tragic Flaw. From their announcement:

[A]uthors Kevin Carey and Marguerite Roza examine two schools that from the outside appear the same but inside are quite different: Cameron Elementary School in Fairfax County, Virginia, and Ponderosa Elementary School in Cumberland County, North Carolina. Both schools educate a large number of low-income students.

Yet, because of a number of circumstances, federal, state, and local policies play out such that Cameron has more than twice the money per pupil than Ponderosa, $14,040 vs. $6,773.

In its straightforward analysis of federal, state, and local policies, this report would make an excellent teaching tool, especially for those looking for non-urban examples of disparities in school funding.

Pell Grants for Kids

In the State of the Union Address last night, Bush proposed a new “Pell Grants for Kids” program that would provide $300 million for poor chidren to attend private and religious schools, just as the “regular” Pell Grant program has enabled poor college students to “reach their full potential” via tuition support.

And the blogosphere has begun to weigh in:

The Mirror of Justice applauds the program as potentially stemming the closure of inner-city faith-based schools due for “financial reasons”, schools that he sees as providing vital alternative to children in chronically under-performing schools.

Other bloggers are far more critical:

The Carpet Bagger Report notes the obvious: that this is a voucher program that can’t be called a voucher program because the term “vouchers” does not poll well. He continues:

it’s ironic that Bush talked about the success of the Pell Grant program in helping “low-income college students realize their full potential,” given that his administration has repeatedly scaled back funding for regular ol’ Pell Grants.

The International Reading Association draws on the NYT’s reporting (as does The Education Policy Blog) that critics of the proposal wonder why, if NCLB is so successful, poor kids would need a program like this.

Greg Palast notes that given that there are 15 million poor children in this country, the $300 million for this program would provide only $20 per child. Accordingly,

George Bush’s alma mater, Phillips Andover Academy, tells us their annual tuition is $37,200. The $20 “Pell Grant for Kids,” as the White House calls it, will buy a poor kid about 35 minutes of this educational dream. So they’ll have to wake up quickly.

And The Engaged Intellectual asks whether this new initiative is intended to divert attention from the failures in NCLB in her scathing critique of each.

I’ll compile more here as bloggers continue to weigh in.

New Magazine on Poverty and Inequality

Thanks to Lane Kentworthy at Consider the Evidence for the link to Pathways Magazine: A Magazine on Poverty, Inequality, and Social Policy, a publication of Stanford University’s Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality. In this issue, you’ll find articles by John Edwards, Barack Obama, and Hilary Clinton on how they would alleviate poverty.

Rebecca Blank’s article comparing and critiquing the candidates’ platforms is particularly informative.

Private and Public Safety Nets

There was an interesting article in yesterday’s NYT on corporations that have decided that when it comes to workers, they can no longer “afford decency for decency’s sake”.

The article notes that along with declining health insurance benefits and the disappearance of pensions, companies have now begun to lay-off more experienced (and more highly paid) workers in the name of efficiency.

And when workers can no longer anticipate rising wages over a long-term commitment to a company, they also can no longer expect to finance a home, pay for their children’s education or care for elderly parents.

The article fairly points out that European companies have never been as involved in the the health care of employees or in the well-being of the elderly as American companies have historically been.

In the end though, the author notes

It would also be foolish to pretend nothing is changing. The corporate safety net of the 20th century is going away, and a fundamentally different private sector will require a fundamentally different public sector.

Yet it seems that so many of us who might provide political support for such changes in the public sector have not yet caught on that the private sector has changed so dramatically in the global economy. So many of us still believe that hard work will be rewarded, that anyone can prosper, that learning more in school will position us for rewarding and high-paying jobs.

It will be interesting to see how some of these issues play out in the upcoming presidential campaign.