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Claudio Sanchez, Education and Winner Take all Politics

Posted on 23 September 2011 by Patricia Gras

There is no doubt. Public education is a political minefield. There are many players, but lately, no one seems to be winning. The students, the teachers, the parents, the politicians, society, administrators. They are all getting blamed because…well…things are just not going well in public education. In Texas we are defunding education. Why? Are we too broke to fund education? Is it a priority? Do we care? Are we paying too much and getting too little in return? The fact is, the country that does not focus its resources in educating its children and its citizens will not be capable of prosperity, success and innovation in the long run. Does anyone have the answer? Not really, because the subject is complicated, because we are living in interesting times. Today, school may not be enough to be successful, but what is certain is that NO SCHOOL is enough to make life much more difficult for the average person.

NPR Education correspondent Claudio Sanchez recently spoke at an Art Education conference in Houston. He spoke about a lot of things but I picked up on what I am interested in. Most importantly, I picked up on how we need to reframe the conversation. It is now very popular to criticize teachers for what is going on. Our basic failure to educate at risk students, but are they really to blame?  I want to know why we can’t seem to make a dent on drop out rates and why so many kids are falling through the cracks. Here are some of the statistics he shared.

Only 15 percent of 9th graders in the United States will graduate from college on time.

One million teens drop out of school every year!

Parental involvement is the biggest predictor of how kids will do.

Schools and what happens there account for 35% of a student’s success, the other 65% teachers and schools have no control over. Things such as housing, health care, nutrition and they type of parents they have do play a big role.

What is my interpretation? what is my underlying message?  POVERTY AND INEQUALITY. If the parents are getting poorer, they have less time to provide for their kids or spend time with them or being parents. Then there are the parents that shouldn’t be parenting. The kidssuffer and here is where I bring up the book that every American should read today read a point of view on what is happening. It is called Winner Take All Politics. How Washington Made the Rich Richer and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class by Jacob s. Hacker and Paul Pierson. 


Changes in Government policies brought on by BOTH PARTIES that favor those at the very top. The super rich.

“The share of [national] income earned by the top 1 percent of Americans has increased from around 8 percent in 1974 to more than 18 percent in 2007…. The only time since 1913 … that this share has been higher was 1928.”

The top  .1 percent of american had about 7.3 percent of total national after tax income in 2000 up from 1.2 percent in 1970. If the effect of taxes on their income had remained what  it was in 1970, the would have had about 4.5 percent of after tax income

Since the 80′s the American economy enjoyed tremendous prosperity and expansion, yet at the same time, inequality rose. The government did little to redistribute income. They ended welfare.  They cut capital gains taxes and the minimum wage did not get adjusted to inflation. As a result the middle class suffered.

The top 1 percent have enjoyed 36 percent of all the income growth generated in the U.S. economy. What did the rest of Americans get?

What’s the solution to our education, inequality, and poverty problem?  Let’s start by becoming aware of some facts, because politicians are making policies based on arguments they favor, not the facts.

If we cease to educate our youth in America, we will all pay no matter what political persuasion you support. Ask yourself what role can you play. Can you mentor someone?can you volunteer at your school?  Can you attend school board meetings? We can make a difference in our own community. If each one of us could make a different in at least one student’s life. We would be proactive in dealing with the education crisis we are facing.

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