Education, Skills, Jobs: How We Broke the System

From When Helping Hurts (Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert):

Economic globalization highlights the need for a strong educational system that produces workers not just with vocational training but also with sufficient general skills and the basic capacity to learn so that they can adapt to a rapidly changing, global economy. The job that a person has today could easily vanish tomorrow, so people need to be able to adjust, get retrained, and learn new skills.

Unfortunately, there is arguably no great perpetuation of historical injustice in the United States than funding for the public educational system.

Because public schools are largely dependent upon state and local tax revenues to meet their budgets, schools in poorer states and localities necessarily have fewer resources per pupil.

Moreover, the formulas used to dispense national, state and local funds have been shown to allocate significantly fewer resources to poor school districts, exacerbating the economic disparities that already exist. The end result is wide variations in expenditures per student, with some school districts spending 300 percent more per pupil than others. Inadequate funding of schools in poor communities is one contributor to unprepared graduates, who then go on to earn low wages and to pay little in school taxes. And then the vicious cycle repeats itself.

Of course, a lack of money is not the sole problem in failing schools. Sinful hearts, distorted worldviews, and bad values, many of which may be transmitted via “cultures of poverty” such as ghetto nihilism, significantly contribute to poor student performance.

But let us not forget that local, national, and even international forces, including hundreds of years of racial discrimination, contributed to the formation of these ghettos in the first place. Even if there were not any current racial discrimination — and there is — the plague of historic discrimination is perpetuated via the American educational system.

(emphasis added)

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