Poor kids are falling behind in more ways than one. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich examines how educational outcomes have grown wider between the richest and poorest children. He notes that race is not the defining factor because that gap is closing. The widening gap is between rich and poor, regardless of race. Reich points out that local educational funding is based on property taxes. The richest districts fund their schools at twice the rate of the poorest.
Reich ends his article with these words:
“We’re requiring all schools meet high standards, requiring students to take more and more tests, and judging teachers by their students’ test scores.
But until we recognize we’re systematically hobbling schools serving disadvantaged kids, we’re unlikely to make much headway.’’
Another way to look at this issue is to use the words of writer Nelson Algren: “The game is fixed.”
How can America be a land where all have equal opportunity if the children of the most wealth are educated in schools that have twice the funding of the poorest school? This problem is just a matter of rich and poor. Social mobility is not what it was twenty or forty years ago. Education inequality seems to track income inequality. Land of the free and home of the brave?
Today is the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. While everyone correctly remembers Martin Luther King’s role as a civil rights champion, we should not forget his commitment to workplace justice. King often walked with striking workers. He preached the need for good jobs and good wages. Surely his voice would ring out today as an advocate for those low wages workers who are asking America to wake up. Tomorrow will be a day of strikes and direct action in the fast food industry. If Dr. King were alive, he would be standing with our brothers and sisters who labor at minimum wage jobs with no benefits. He knew that all Americans deserve equal opportunity – and a living wage.