Occupy…your school district?

In this week’s School of Thought blog, Andrew Rotherham discusses the disparities in public education across the country.  If the goal of the Occupy movement is to improve social mobility, then there is “no better example of how the system is rigged against millions of Americans than the education our children receive…today zip codes remain a better predictor of school quality and subsequent opportunities than smarts or hard work.  When you think about it, that’s a lot more offensive to our values than a lightly regulated banking system.

Rotherham presents the data on the “income-based gap” between rich and poor kids’ achievement: only 8% of low income students get college degrees by age 24, while 75% of affluent kids do.  No one wants to take responsibility, and no one knows which variable to blame.  The problem is too little money, or too much money with little return, or poverty, or poor curriculums and lax standards, or too much unionization, or…the list goes on.

Since politicians refuse to take firm stands on any education issue, we then have “phony wars about teacher pay or No Child Left Behind that dance around the real issues,” claims Rotherham.  Additionally, he draws linkages between the quality of public schools and unemployment rates:  Michigan and Massachusetts have both seen huge disruptions in their economies, but their unemployment rates are drastically different (11.1% in Michigan, 7.3% in Massachusetts, with the national average at 9.1%).  He claims the difference in unemployment is due to the high-quality schools across Massachusetts, which helps the state attract technology companies and other new industries.

The “sad irony” of Occupy Wall Street, he says, is that teachers’ unions are supporting it.  Though the unions are not the “only cause of our educational problems,” they are “not doing enough to fix them…in ways large and small, they defend practices and policies…that disadvantage low-income students.”  His advice?  The Occupiers should take their outrage to their local school districts’ offices.  Though schools do not generally engender such visceral reactions as corporate CEOs, “for many Americans, they are a larger cause of economic injustice.”

To read the full post, please visit http://ideas.time.com/2011/11/17/forget-wall-street-go-occupy-your-local-school-district/