Violence in Louisville Revisited

Recent violence in Louisville has thankfully started many public conversations about poverty, education and culture that otherwise be relegated to quiet, resigned laments at the dinner table. That Louisvillians are talking about this publicly is broadly to the good. Unfortunately, one well-worn claim about How We Got Here doesn’t stand up to basic scrutiny.

In a piece that has more to recommend it than indicated here, Tim Druck writes:

We used to pay for real educators and leaders spending the time to teach youth who are currently neglected and forgotten. We used to have career and vocational programs for kids who aren’t necessarily college material – I know plenty of successful adults today who learned a trade in high school, anything from auto mechanics to printing to agriculture. Today, if you’re not college-bound, an athlete, or an entertainer, you are entirely on your own to find a trade or a career – no wonder ‘pro athlete’ and ‘gangsta rapper’ are the only goals of so many children. Kids don’t learn that there is success in working for a living – in our culture, in our education systems, in the media, either you are fabulously wealthy or you are nothing.

I include the latter part about vocational education because I agree with it almost entirely. The median salary for plumbers in America is about $49,000.

On the broader issue of what “we used to pay for”, I responded:

Tim responded:

And I responded with this:

Here’s the relevant chart:

This chart doesn't include the costs of school buildings, btw.
This doesn’t include the costs associated with school buildings, btw.

It’s a powerful testament to the power of public school salesmanship and media handwringing that the most carefully considered, thoughtful answer to basically any problem with public schools must always be, say it with me, More Funding.

It’s past time Kentuckians admitted that More Funding has been tried for decades. The persistent problems of low proficiency in reading and math in Jefferson county (despite decades of More Funding) should be laid squarely at the feet of the public school establishment and its defenders.

Kentucky is among a shrinking number of states with no charter schools and no private school choice. This, too, is a testament to the power of the public school establishment that has fought to keep students in failing schools.

But let’s be clear: School choice is not the silver bullet cure to my hometown’s violence. It is, however, a powerful way to engage parents in making one of the most important decisions on behalf of their children that they’ll ever make. If a robust transfer of power away from public schools and into the hands of low-income parents isn’t on the table, then I think it’s safe to call that intentional oversight yet another testament to the power of the public school establishment.

(Related: KidsCount.org has a darn good website.)

Update: Alas, it appears Mr. Druck would rather punish the wealthy than help the poor

If the betterment of school district performance were the only relevant metric for school choice … Tim would still be mistaken.

Also, does anyone honestly care about school districts? Better to worry about how kids currently trapped in those districts get educated.

Close the After-School Loophole!

“The terrifying reality we’re facing is that the worst-equipped people you could possibly imagine may actually be forced to take care of their children,” [Deputy Education Secretary Anthony W. Miller] said. [via The Onion]

The Next Environmental Threat: School Choice

From the abstract of “Vehicle Emissions during Children’s School Commuting: Impacts of Education Policy“:

We explore how school policies influence the environmental impacts of school commutes. Our research is motivated by increased interest in school choice policies (in part because of the U.S. “No Child Left Behind” Act) and in reducing bus service to address recent budget shortfalls.

We find that eliminating district-wide school choice (i.e., returning to a system with neighborhood schools only) would have significant impacts on transport modes and emissions, whereas in many cases proposed shifts in school choice and bus-provision policies would have only modest impacts.

Policies that curtail bus usage may reduce bus emissions but yield even larger increases in private-vehicle emissions. Our findings underscore the need to critically evaluate transportation-related environmental and health impacts of currently proposed changes in school policy.

Hey guys, you know what else can yield “larger increases in private-vehicle emissions”? Choice of grocery store, choice of dry cleaner, choice of shopping mall, choice of residential neighborhood, choice of restaurant, choice of romantic encounters, choice of entertainment, choice of visiting relatives, choice of basically any kind in which use of an automobile is implicated.

Update: Don Boudreaux fires off a letter.