Two articles in two different publications led me to this question: If we managed to find BILLIONS of dollars to bail out the banks, who now have money to dig costly tunnels to make money that provides no value to the economy, why can’t we find money to connect ALL students to the internet?
The articles that prompted this were Paul Krugman’s op ed piece describing the huge investment made by banks to shave milliseconds off their communications. The reason: by getting information faster than other investors banks can make money. The problem with this? Krugman offers a history lesson that provides the answer:
Back in 1815 Baron Rothschild made a killing because he knew the outcome of the Battle of Waterloo a few hours before everyone else; it’s hard to see how that knowledge made Britain as a whole richer. It’s even harder to see how the three-millisecond advantage conveyed by the Spread Networks tunnel makes modern America richer; yet that advantage was clearly worth it to the speculators.
So what happens is a small percentage of high frequency traders is getting much wealthier but that dealt is adding nothing to the economy.
Meanwhile, Education Week offers sobering news on the implementation of high speed internet:
Applications for federal E-rate money show broad gaps between wealthy and poor school systems’ access to high-quality technologies, and varying abilities among districts to purchase connectivity at affordable rates, a new analysis reveals.
Among Education SuperHighway’s findings:
School districts that are already meeting the ConnectED goals pay on average only one-third the price for broadband as schools that don’t meet that standard. That could be because they’re buying more broadband, with economies of scale, or because they’re in geographic locations where it’s cheaper, Marwell said. But it also could be driven by other factors, he said, such as they could have greater resources and competition from providers;
School districts that already have fiberoptic cable connections have nine times the bandwidth, and 75 percent lower costs, per megabit per second, than districts without fiber;
School districts with access to “competitive options” pay two to three times less for wide-area-network connections compared with those served by “incumbent” telephone and cable companies. Ideally, those incumbents should be challenged for school district business by local utilities, muncipal networks, and competitive local exchange carriers, Marwell argues.
School districts already meeting the ConnectED goals have budgets for accessing the Internet that are, on average, 450 times larger than those that don’t meet those goals, and they invest $7.16 per student, compared with just $1.59 for schools falling short of the mark;
While just 20 percent of all school districts surveyed are meeting the ConnectED goals, the number is lower, 14 percent, among districts with at least three-quarters of students on free or reduced price lunches. By contrast, a much higher portion, 39 percent, of schools with less than 1 percent of free or reduced price lunch students are meeting the ConnectED goals.
So the affluent districts, who spend much more per student than distort serving children raised in poverty, are getting faster and cheaper internet services. The digital divide is exacerbating the economic divide and undercutting any chance for equal opportunity.
So I ask again: If we managed to find BILLIONS of dollars to bail out the banks, who now have money to dig costly tunnels to make money that provides no value to the economy, why can’t we find money to connect ALL students to the internet?
The map below vividly illustrates why schools should provide child care for working parents. It shows that in 31 states it costs more to provide infant care at a child care center than it costs to pay tuition and fees at a public college. It is a well documented shameful and regrettable fact that prison costs more per year that college— indeed often more than an Ivy League college… but it is equally shameful and regrettable that working parents need to pay as much to get care for their child as they would pay to attend their State college. The solution: provide space in schools to care for these children…. and if the space isn’t available in schools, find a hedge fund manager to divert their resources toward the institution of non-profit infant care instead of for-profit charter schools. Given the need for welfare mothers and fathers to find work, and given the need to provide children raised in poverty with academically enriched environments, this could be a win-win… oh, wait… that’s right… there’s no profit in non-profit infant care.
“Where the GOP Gets it Right”, Nick Kristoff’s column today in the NYTimes gets it wrong when it comes to analyzing public education. In identifying areas where the GOP’s policy analysis is correct, he writes:
SCHOOL REFORM Republicans were right to blow the whistle on broken school systems, for education in inner-city schools is the civil rights issue of the 21st century. Democrats, in cahoots with teachers’ unions and protective of a dysfunctional system, were long part of the problem.
Bravo to Republicans for protesting that teachers’ unions were sometimes protecting disastrous teachers (including, in New York City, one who passed out drunk in her classroom, with even the principal unable to rouse her). Likewise, some of the most successful schools in the inner cities have been charters in the Knowledge Is Power Program, showing what is possible even in troubled cities.
Yet Democrats, led by President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, are coming around, and teachers’ unions have moderated. Republicans sometimes suggest that our biggest educational problem is teachers’ unions themselves. That’s absurd.States with strong teachers’ unions in the North like Massachusetts have better schools than states in the South with weak unions.
Meanwhile, one of the most important evidence-backed school reforms is public preschool and home visitation for disadvantaged kids, yet Republicans are blocking any national move to universal prekindergarten (even though Republican-led states like Oklahoma are leaders in pre-K).
These three paragraphs prompted me to write two comments. First:
School systems are not broken: well-funded school systems that pay teachers well and educate children raised in affluence do as well as any on earth. Underfunded school systems who pay teachers less well and educate children raised in poverty are challenged. Neither Republicans nor Democrats are willing to face the fact that educating children in poverty requires more government resources in health and social services and more support for single parents. And in this post-Reagan era, neither party is willing to say that government might be the solution and not the problem.
One more caveat regarding the KIPP’s performance in inner city schools: a review of these posts from Diane Ravitch’s blog might mitigate the use of the term “success”: http://dianeravitch.net/?s=KIPP It seems KIPP de-selects poor performing students, costs substantially more per pupil than public schools, and engages in some disciplinary practices that would not be allowed in a public school.
Nick Kristoff is usually on the mark when it comes to social policy issues, particularly the effects of poverty. Indeed, in this article he concludes with this call for the GOP to provide more than words:
If we offer the needy nothing but slogans and reprimands — “Strengthen your family! Get a job! Get an education!” — then our antipoverty programs are a cruel joke as bankrupt as Marie Antoinette’s “Let them eat cake.”
Needy schools are like needy citizens… they get slogans like “school reform” and “accountability” and reprimands like “work longer hours” and “set higher standards”… but when it comes to funding, they don’t even get cake: they get the crumbs that fall on the floor.
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