No Cliché Left Behind

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

Yet another reason to dread federal control of education: federal officials. For one thing, they actually believe all of that class warfare rhetoric.

At a conference at the Center for American Progress (CAP) on August 3, 2011, U. S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-PA, favorably quoted the 40-year old admonition of the Nixon Administration: “As long as schools are funded by property taxes, children will be educated disproportionately.”

“In wealthy suburban districts, kids are getting a great education,” Rep. Fattah said at CAP.

“Kids need a reasonable class size, counseling and a rigorous curriculum.”

“Our challenge in school finance is to make sure that educational achievement is not an accident of zip code,” Berkeley’s Christopher Edley, Jr. told the audience at CAP via a special satellite feed from Berkeley to CAP. Edley co-chairs the U. S. Department of Education’s Equity and Excellence commission.

Neither Fattah nor Edley provided detailed information on these rich brainiacs attending public schools. At the CAP event, the group unveiled a report, Measuring Inequity in School Funding by Diana Epstein, that lays out some aggressive steps to redress what all of the above view as an imbalance.

“The inequity in school funding must be remedied so all children in a state have access to the resources they need to achieve at high levels,” Epstein writes.” States should employ progressive school finance systems so districts with high percentages of low- income children receive more resources than those with fewer low-income children.”

“Those states without progressive finance systems should therefore undertake reforms, a process that is both technically difficult and politically challenging since it is likely to create funding winners and losers as funds are distributed in new ways. Because states may be reluctant to undertake such a process, the federal government should consider playing a role in incentivizing states to reform their school finance systems.”

Actually, Rhode Island did attempt to “level the playing field,” with the aid of a professor from Brown. “With the new formula, half of the districts in Rhode Island get more funding,” Ken Wong, of the Education Department at Brown, said. “Half get less.”

The transformation was initiated “because the state commissioner of education wanted Race to the Top money,” Wong said, referring to the federal government’s education grant competition.

“Now, 70 percent of Rhode Island kids get more programs.” Nevertheless, in pursuing this redistributive scheme, the Rhode Island planners may have inadvertently latched onto a key free market tenet.

“The money follows the child,” Wong says. “For example, if the child goes to a charter school, the district loses that funding.”

“We spread the losses over ten years to make them less painful.”

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.

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