The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Back to school to what kind of education?

Sep 9, 2002

Tens of millions of parents got their children back to school recently, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on new school clothes, shoes, book bags and school supplies. But this was the least of their worries. For most working class parents there is the very real concern that their children will not be getting a decent education.

Students in the elite public schools serving wealthy areas generally provide a good education. And for the very rich, there have always been private schools that for a handsome price provide an excellent education. But for many working class students, the public schools are inadequate. In big cities, a large portion of the students fail to graduate, and even for those who do graduate, reading and math skills are often below standard.

It's no wonder that in such a circumstance parents search for other options.

But what options? More testing? Vouchers?

Recently many states have added requirements for testing students requiring schools to hold many more students back unless they meet minimum standards. But simply refusing to allow underperforming students to move forward in underperforming schools solves nothing. Tests are useful – As for vouchers – a voucher is nothing but a subsidy to parents who want to send their children to private or charter schools. But almost all the private schools cost more than the vouchers provide. So parents have to come up with additional money – usually thousands of dollars a year – to send a child to one of these schools.

Most charter schools and a big majority of the cheaper private schools provide a worse education than the public schools do. A recent study of 376 charter schools in ten states, for example, showed that the average charter school student tested at least a half year and up to a year behind the average public school student on reading and math tests.

No wonder.

Education depends on: first, good teachers and second, class size. But both of theses things require money and resources – more than what is spent on school systems today.

Eating away at the public schools through vouchers, charter schools and parochial school education won't add money to the system. It just subtracts money – and worsens the education.