This is the question asked by Marian Wright Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund at the end of a powerful essay that describes the deep cuts being made in education programs. Education has not been a big part of the Republican debates unless they are talking about reducing the federal government’s role. And, indeed, the track record has not been good for the feds as they have led to a national obsession with test scores and now with teacher evaluation.
The government hasn’t always been such a detriment to education. The response to Sputnik spurred new interest in science and federal money helped fund summer programs and teacher development.
Unfortunately, helping poor kids succeed doesn’t seem to compare to concern about the Soviets as a national crisis, and yet we know that those in poverty are more likely to drop out, which leads to a whole host of issues from higher incarceration rates to lower employment earning. But there seems to be a desire on the side of conservatives to blame the poor for their lot, suggesting it is easy to escape the cycle. Most of these suggestions, of course, are made by people who have never had to worry about paying the rent or feeding themselves.
So, while we say we value education, we have all sorts of excuses for why we don’t show those values in both access and funding. It’s a simple, but powerful question: what are our values?