With the recent startling news reports of increasing violence in and around Chicago educational institutions, I decided to investigate the correlation between financial expenditures and attained results. The unbelievable accounts of a good Fenger High School student’s death due to a beating by thugs with two by fours hit home, because it occurred at the high school that my wife attended 1962-1966.
Did you know or remember that the Federal Department of Education was not formed until President Jimmy Carter signed legislation in October 1979, and since that time the staff has grown to over 5,000 federal employees? President Reagan promised in 1980 to eliminate this Cabinet post and through the 1980’s and 90’s the Republican Party unsuccessfully supported that position.
President Reagan said, “The Federal government has no constitutional authority to be involved in school curricula or to control jobs in the market place. This is why we will abolish the , Department of Education, end federal meddling in our schools, and promote family choice at all levels of learning.” Obviously that never happened and the federal educational budget has exploded to over $62.6 billion in the regular 2009 discretionary appropriations, plus $96.8 billion in discretionary funding provided under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Just consider the fact that many believe that the funding of Education should be the responsibility of each State as clearly espoused by our Founding Fathers. The State of Illinois Education budget is in excess of $4.8 billion alone. That does not include the dollars flowing from the Federal government.
Considering those huge numbers, I looked to the Chicago Sun Times recent reports of individual schools’ achievements, and found some startling results. In the Adequate Yearly Progress Report it is specified by the No Child Left Behind Act that schools must strive to achieve:
High Schools must have a graduation rate of at least 78%.
Elementary and Junior High Schools must have an attendance rate of at least 90%.
Compare that to these numbers for Fenger High School on Chicago’s far south side:
Only 6.7% of all students meet or exceed state reading standards.
Only 3.4% of all students meet or exceed state math standards.
Only 47.1% graduated.
Fenger High School has been identified for school/student improvement for the last seven years and is rated 654 out of 656 ranked high schools.
I could not believe my eyes, so I then looked at the report for the Chicago high school I attended 1945-1949, Hirsch High School, also located on Chicago’s south side, and the results were shocking, too.
Only 17.4% of all students meet or exceed state reading standards.
Only 7.0% of all students meet or exceed state math standards.
Only 46.5% graduated.
Just like Fenger, Hirsch has been cited for improvement the last seven years and is rated 628 out of 656.
Trust me when I tell you that these two schools today are educationally nothing like the schools my wife and I attended. We had teachers and administrators who encouraged us to do our best and parents who expected exactly that.
There were many other statistics in the Chicago Sun Times reports, but the three quoted above from two high schools tell a frightful story of underachievement and a failure of our governments, both Federal and State, to achieve appropriate educational results. The reports clearly prove there is a huge difference in the level of achievement between white and minority students and schools.
I looked at a number of schools in more affluent areas of Chicago and, although the scores and statistics were significantly better, there was plenty of room for improvement. One wonders about parental involvement and the ability of the teachers in high minority schools. What about the Teachers Unions and National Education Association (the teachers’ lobbying group in Washington)? Shouldn’t they expect excellence from their members, and my feeling is the issue of tenure makes a bad situation even worse. How many people do you know, other than teachers, have tenure with their jobs?
Your Commander salutes the bankrupt Chicago Sun Times for bringing this vital information to its readers, but I suspect little or nothing will be done to really solve this appalling situation. The sad result of these poor levels of student success will definitely lead to increased crime, confinements, welfare rolls swelling, and a massive financial obligation to support a growing entitlement population. Thus, it is obvious that we ask ourselves why we permit our politicians to continue to fail to address our long-term educational requirements and obligations. As taxpayers and parents we certainly are not getting our money’s worth and our country will suffer the devastating consequences.
On December 23rd, noted Economics Professor Walter E. Williams posted on Townhall.com comments that directly address the problems in education, particularly where black students are concerned. The article is enlightening and you can find it at: http://townhall.com/columnists/WalterEWilliams/2009/12/22/black_education
Williams pulls no punches, which few politicians or black leaders do, when he says, “Black people have accepted hare-brained ideas that have made large percentages of black youngsters virtually useless in an increasingly technological economy. This destruction will continue until the day comes when black people are willing to turn their backs on liberals and the education establishment’s agenda and confront issues that are both embarrassing and uncomfortable. To a lesser extent, this also applies to whites because the educational performance of many white kids is nothing to write home about; it’s just not the disaster that black education is.”
I believe that President Reagan had it right and we should close the Department of Education, because we certainly are not getting what we are paying for after wasting more than a trillion dollars since its inception. Good heavens, where is the accountability, responsibility, transparency, and essential improvements to the system? Do you suspect, as I do, that our Washington politicians really want a growing entitlement voting block that is obligated to them for hand-outs? America is slowly destroying two of our most precious commodities, our children and our democracy, by permitting a failed educational system to further erode.