Richard Rothstein used to be the education writer for the NY Times until apparently forced aside.  He is currently a researcher at the Economic Policy Institute and a visiting professor at Teachers College, Columbia University.  Yesterday (April 3) he had an interesting op ed in the LA Times (for which free registration is required), the total title of which is

Cheapskate Conservatives Cheat Students

Let’s pump some money into highly promising programs.

This is the url

I had not planned to post any diaries at this point, but I will, below the fold offer several paragraphs, so that those who are interested can pursue the full article.

Recommend or not as you see fit.

For years now, conservative economists have contended that sinking money into schools is pointless because test scores don’t automatically rise when schools boost spending. True, spending and achievement don’t always go hand in hand, but the conservative argument still doesn’t make sense.

But the economists who deny that money matters don’t propose slashing New Jersey’s standard to California’s more miserly one. Nor do they proposecutting suburban spending, high in many states, to inner-city levels. Yet still they argue, illogically, against pumping more money into schools with less — an inconsistency that suggests their opposition to greater spending is based more on parsimony than on analysis.

Studies show that early childhood care and education programs are crucial to academic success. . . . By age 3, many minority and poor children already are far behind in cognitive development. When disadvantaged children are placed in early care programs staffed with enough well-educated caregivers to give the children individual attention, the effects are positive, research shows. . . .  Even when these early care programs don’t consistently produce higher elementary school test scores, the children benefit down the road. They are more likely to graduate from high school and earn more as adults, and are less likely to get pregnant or commit a crime.

Please especially note the next, which I have bolded

James Heckman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and political conservative, estimates that for every dollar spent on early childhood education for disadvantaged children, society saves nearly $9, mostly in reduced adultincarceration costs.

Although rarely recognized, minority children seem to learn as much in school as their white counterparts, and on some measures, their gains are greater. For instance, an analysis of scores from the highly regarded National Assessment of Educational Progress shows that black eighth-graders in 1998 gained more in reading from the time they were fourth-graders than whites. Although schools can do much more to improve minority performance, big causes of the continuing gap in overall achievement are that disadvantaged children start out so far behind, and their education gets less support after school and during the summer break. The best opportunities for smart investments to boost minority performance further may lie outside the regular school day.

And while I will not offer mujch comment or annotation on what Rothstein says (and you really should read the whole piece), his finally short paragraph cuts to the heart of the issue:

Throwing money at problems is not the way to solve them, but smart spending can pay. We spend too little on programs likely to succeed not because we lack consensus on their value. We just don’t want to raise taxes to pay for them.
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