A Pennsylvania tragedy
Jason throws down the gauntlet, and I'll pick it up. What is happening now with the Duquesne School District--and with the children whose very futures are at stake--is downright criminal. It represents a perfect storm of problems with how Pennsylvania is governed. One is the multiplicity of local governments, many of which--in the face of declining populations and shrinking tax bases--can no longer adequately provide government services, including education. Another is the over-reliance on locally generated revenues to fund public education, which should be a right of any child, regardless of their station in life, and regardless of where they had the good or bad fortune to be born.
Yes, I'm aware that low-income districts like Duquense often get more state and federal money than many affluent districts, but they also need more. The educational deficits caused by poverty are real, they start early, and their effects are cumulative. And if wealthy districts want to spend more money on schools, they have that option--poor districts do not. That doesn't mean that poor children can't learn, or that poverty should excuse failure--but it is willfully ignorant to deny that affluent children have advantages that make their schools' job easier.
I would certainly agree that throwing more money at the problem is not the best answer. Meaningful, effective education reform is a goal that has eluded this nation for more than a generation, and I could be more forgiving if the crisis in Duquense had touched off a genuine debate over how to address the problems faced by underachieving school districts.
But as far as Duquesne is concerned, no one cares. There is no substantive discussion occurring because no one, save for their own parents, seems to give a rat's ass what happens to these kids. Certainly not the governor or state legislators, who have been too busy trying to keep open casinos and find money for hockey arenas. Not the good folks in West Mifflin, who don't want those children in their schools. Regardless of their motives, West Mifflin residents are horribly mistaken if they think the fate of Duquesne's students is not their concern. Do they really think that crime, proverty and economic stagnation respect arbitrarily drawn municipal boundaries?
Education is a right, and a social good. It is not a privilege conferred solely on the affluent, or those who live in the right zip codes. We all suffer if our neighbors' children don't get as good an education as our own. One day, the people in West Mifflin and our "leaders" in Harrisburg will understand that. But by then it will be too late.