Throwing money at school problems is more efficient than dropping it from helicopters.

Last night Anne and I were over at Weegee’s, a local bar in west Logan Square, where they were holding an annual fundraiser for Unity Park.

Unity Park once was a little playlot. In Chicago, a playlot is couple hundred square feet of wood chips, some swings, a jungle gym, a slide and two hoops. But as a result of community involvement and battles with past alderman, including a sit-in to keep her from taking away a basketball court (basketball brings in the “wrong element,” according to the now defeated alderman), the playlot expanded into a real park with a water feature, grass and tons more age differentiated playground equipment. In the summer it bustles with families, elote carts and old ladies selling helado de coco.

Why a fundraiser? Because the Park District doesn’t give the park council enough money to do what is needed. Good park programs need money. Rahm is quicker to give money to the Board of Trade than he is to give budget money for parks, libraries and schools.

So we have fundraisers at bars so kids can have parks.

What a system.

When we got home, someone had sent me this article from the San Francisco Chronicle by David Sirota.

The story: Want better schools? Give them more money.

I remember hearing Jonathan Kozol speaking at the University of Chicago s few years back and he was mocking those who said you can’t solve education problems by throwing money at them. “Of course you can,” Kozol would say. “It is better than dropping it from a helicopter or shooting it from a cannon.”

As 2011 draws to a close, we can confidently declare that one of the biggest debates over education is – mercifully – resolved. We may not have addressed all the huge challenges facing our schools, but we finally have empirical data ruling out apocryphal theories and exposing the fundamental problem.

Thus we arrive at the factor that decides so many things in American society: money.

As the revelations of 2011 prove, students aren’t helped by billionaire-executives-turned-education-dilettantes who leverage their riches to force their faith-based theories into schools. Likewise, kids don’t benefit from politicians pretending that union-busting, teacher-bashing and standardized testing represent successful school “reforms.”

Instead, America’s youth need the painfully obvious: a national commitment to combatting poverty and more funds spent on schools in the poorest areas than on schools in the richest areas – not the other way around.

One thought on “Throwing money at school problems is more efficient than dropping it from helicopters.

  1. Well…DUH. This reminds me–years ago–of going to a District 65 (Evanston-Skokie) Parent Information Meeting & hearing the results of a study that found smaller class size to improve education. The obvious–but, Fred, we are preaching to the choir. Are the ed. deformers reading these well-springs of information & saying, “YES! Now here is exactly what we should do: we should invest our resources & billionaire wealth in poorer areas, & we should eradicate poverty once and for all. Then, and only then, will our public education system thrive!” (Sarcasm, of course.)
    Remember when we had a referendum for the state equalizer and it so miserably failed? I can tell you what was going on in aforementioned school district–that bastion of liberal-and-justice-for-all thinking: the P.T.A. Council voted to take the “Vote No” stance on the state equalizer! “Because,”as one of our oh-so-liberal P.T.A. Board members said,”it will take money away from our district & from our children.” As someone who is a great admirer of Kozol (& you wouldn’t believe how many of our colleagues have never even HEARD of him), & having read Savage Inequalities (East St. Louis & the Monsanto Factory–this book is a must-read for EVERY adult who calls himself a human being), I just went home after that meeting & cried my eyes out.
    See, Fred, we can’t even get so-called “liberal,” middle class people to SEE the solution to all of this.
    So, what we MUST do, is to get people like you (especially since you’re retiring) to run for office, to be involved–in that way–so that you and people like you will have the authority & the power to set SOME kind of laws to make our communities, our schools and our country what it SHOULD be for everyone.
    Because we are getting to the point where it will be too late.

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