NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 6, 2007

After the eight Democratic presidential candidates agreed in their latest debate that public education is woefully underfunded, they all got into cars and drove through Washington, D.C., where teachers are relatively well paid, per pupil spending is through the roof and the schools are among the very worst in the nation, says Richard Cohen in the Miami Herald.

They all seemed to be missing the point, says Cohen:

  • Not a one of them even whispered a mild word of outrage about a public school system that spends $13,000 per child -- third highest among big-city school systems -- and produces pupils who score among the lowest in just about every category.
  • Further, not a single candidate offered anything remotely close to a call for real reform; instead, saying if only more money was allocated to these woe-is-me school systems, things would right themselves overnight.

The problem is not just underfunding, says Cohen. Nor is it racial segregation, as the candidates also decried. Despite their outrage at the recent Supreme Court ruling, the reality is that it has almost no application to the big-city school systems because most of these systems are overwhelmingly black or Hispanic:

  • Washington, D.C., has about 65,000 black students and about 3,500 whites.
  • Los Angeles has about one million Hispanic students and 285,000 whites.
  • Philadelphia has about 180,00 nonwhite students and 30,000 whites.
  • New York's borough of the Bronx has about 200,000 black or Hispanic students and nearly as many Asian/Pacific Islanders as whites (9,000).

Insofar as the Democratic presidential candidates talked about public school education and in so far as they mentioned the Supreme Court decision, they largely mouthed Democratic orthodoxy, says Cohen. But to the kid in the classroom or a parent bucking the bureaucracy, the rhetoric must have only sounded like hot air.

Source: Richard Cohen, "Expensive Illiterates," Miami Herald, July 5, 2007.


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