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Flooded Prairies and Flooded Schools

April 1, 2019

An article in today’s NYTimes described the impact of flooding in the Midwest where epic rainstorms and snow melt are combining to overrun levies that were designed for an earlier era. Here’s a paragraph from the report by Mitch Smith and John Schwartz and my comment that uses this quote to analogize what is happening with the floodwaters to what is happening in public education:

“Many of the levees, usually earthen and topped with grass, were built by farmers decades ago and are now managed by a patchwork of local government agencies known as levee districts that often do not coordinate or even follow the same rules. With increased flooding in the past few years, the levees are being tested more frequently than ever before, straining the finances and expertise of some of those districts.”

As one who laments the lack of equity in school funding, I see this paragraph as an apt metaphor for what has happened in public education. Too bad the challenges facing public schools are not as evident as the challenges facing those who build and design levies. The trade-offs are analogous: do we want to spend more money to replace an obsolete design or “let nature take its course”. Here’s the public school version of the above paragraph:

Many of the SCHOOLS, usually 1950s VINTAGE EGG-CRATES WITH DOUBLE LOADED CORRIDORS, were built years ago and are now managed by a patchwork of local government agencies known as SCHOOL BOARDS that often do not coordinate or even follow the same rules. With DEMANDS FOR MORE SERVICES AND MORE SOPHISTICATED INSTRUCTION in the past few years, CHILDREN are tested more frequently than ever before, straining the finances and expertise of some of those districts.

And like those who deny climate change, there are many who deny the significant changes wrought by technology, family structure, and the erosion of taxpayer support.

Changes in culture and loss of taxpayer support are flowing the classrooms the same way as swollen rivers are flooding the Midwest…. and in both cases voters face tough choices.

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