Social Justice and Public Schools, a Continuing Series

Social Justice and Public Schools, a Continuing Series July 8, 2011

Several months ago I wrote a Patheos article called “Wisconsin is the New France: Entitlement Derangement Syndrome” condemning the hysterical response to marginal teachers’ benefit cuts and promptly got lambasted by commenter after commenter, with some even questioning my Christianity.

Why bring it up?  Because Glenn Reynolds’ “Sunday Reflection” in the Washington Examiner contains some inconvenient facts:

Wisconsin spends a lot of money on education, and its teachers are well-paid. The average total compensation for a teacher in the Milwaukee public schools is over $100,000 per year.

In fact, Wisconsin spends more money per pupil than any other state in the Midwest. Nonetheless, two-thirds of Wisconsin eighth-graders can’t read proficiently.

But it gets worse: “The test also showed that the reading abilities of Wisconsin public-school eighth graders had not improved at all between 1998 and 2009, despite a significant inflation-adjusted increase in the amount of money Wisconsin public schools spent per pupil each year. . . . from 1998 to 2008, Wisconsin public schools increased their per pupil spending by $4,245 in real terms yet did not add a single point to the reading scores of their eighth graders and still could lift only one-third of their eighth graders to at least a ‘proficient’ level in reading.”

More money spent, same (poor) results.  Where’s the social justice in that?


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  • Jeff Kaspari

    Hey Frenchie! Remember me from your days at Lipscomb? Nice blog. I like the title. You are still the only person I know who has read the unabridged version of Les Miserables. Regarding this blog, I am a high school teacher and am subjected daily to hysterical reaction to what is happening in Wisconsion and Michigan. Thanks for what you and your family do.

  • bill stout

    I have not studied WI schools, but in most school districts two factors are key to understanding the author’s over-simplified points:
    1) most new money in school budgets simply goes to keep up with medical insurance inflation. Businesses have fought the same battle over this time with two main strategies: less medical benefits/higher contribution costs for employees or increases in productivity through mechanization. The latter is hard to do in schools.
    2) student achievement is influenced greatly by the social, non-school environment of the kids and families, esp. poverty and social dislocation. As some cities/areas become economically depressed education becomes even more challenging-especially when measured by things like reading tests. A lot of research has shown that non-native and low income families use language quite differently than the middle class. Not saying, disadvantaged kids can’t excel, but they and their teachers face additional challenges and progress on standardized tests does not come easily.

  • Timothy Dalrymple

    Hey, *I* read the unabridged Les Mis! Loved the musical, and from there I came to love Hugo.

  • David French

    I would say that I love Hugo, but the Hunchback of Notre Dame is the single-most depressing work of fiction I’ve ever read.

  • David French

    Hey Jeff! I’ve been out of town and just saw your comment. You’ve got to read Les Miserables then follow it up with Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Two great under-read books . . . because they’re so long.