No Money to Fix Public Education

karen bass

Congresswoman Karen Bass

Wednesday night at the Center for the Junior Blind in Baldwin Hills, Congresswoman Karen Bass and Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali spoke about fixing public education as “the most important civil rights issue of our generation.” And yet, in laying out where we stand now and the Obama administration’s ambitious goals for fixing public education by 2020, Ali tried the impossible task of trying to reconcile her optimism with her equally honest assessment that there was not only no money to fix public education, but the rather extreme likelihood that there would be even less in the future.

In discussing President Obama’s “waiver package” for the failed policy of No Child Left Behind that he recently put forward, because the Congress did not act, Ali acknowledged that “we saw that we had been lying to the kids…and messing with the psychometrics of tests”. To ignore the reality of failing public schools and the “data hobbling…scary”  that we have created in public education throughout this country is “correlated to race, poverty, and English language learners” in a manner that has not only not eliminated the “separate and inherently unequal” public education system addressed in Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954, but has actually increased the disparity.

While Ali showed that she has a clear understanding of the statistics that indicate “we take kids that need the most and give them less of everything” — to the point of having the dubious distinction of being  1 of 4 countries in the world with the greatest disparity in what is spent on education for the rich versus the poor, she doesn’t seem to really get the true ramification of how this has decimated the educability and socialization of Black and Latino students.

leonard isenbergWhile citing discipline rates of Black males at 72% of all Black students versus only 20% for their White counterparts, she plays to the knee jerk response of her predominantly Black audience that these discipline figures reflect racism, instead of seeing them as a reflection of the complete and utter failure to engage Black and Latino youth in a timely manner, so that they are educated and socialized by public education into young adults ready to assume their responsibility of keeping this country a democracy instead of a rich man’s oligarchy. While it might seem a fine distinction, it is clear to me any student regardless of ethnicity would be disruptive in a humiliating public education system that has made no attempt to educate and engage them.

russlyn ali

Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali

Pushing for AP Biology or lamenting the fact that motivated minority students might be forced to take such a class on line or have to take a bus to get to a school that offers these courses necessary to be competitive applicants to good colleges, belies the fact that the vast majority of Black and Latino students do not have even basic English language and math skills necessary to do regular work, because school systems like LAUSD still have no expectation that Black and Latino students can learn. What LAUSD teaches best is apathy through the monotony of copying, while blindly following orders and never daring to question, which is in reality the essence of a truly educated person.

Simplistic notions like making the school day or year longer appear to have merit until one realizes that many schools around the world either go to school for the same amount of time that we now do or less and yet still accomplish more, because of the timely and structured education these students get without social promotion to just push them through ready or not. Sending a high school — aged but not educated — student to 12 hours a day of education every day of the year will not undo the damage that continues to be done by school systems like LAUSD that socially promote students into middle and high school without even rudimentary skills in English and math that become less and less amenable to recapture the longer the student is past the time when they should have been taught these skills.

Given that LAUSD has been failing children of color for generations now, I have difficultly in just empowering parents to advocate on behalf of their children as Assistant Secretary Ali suggests, since advocacy presupposes the education necessary to deal with some rather slick customers at LAUSD and elsewhere that profit from public education remaining precisely the way it has been.

leonard isenber

Lenoard Isenberg

Parents who were my students 24 years ago at Audubon Middle School did not get the education they need to effectively advocate on behalf of their children’s interests or their own. That being said, I think that what they have experienced up until now make them a better candidate for bringing about change on behalf of their children and their families. But we have to take the modest amount of time necessary to connect the dots of how they and their children have been sold out for generations.

Leonard Isenberg


  1. Jane Doe says

    I find it so funny that non-educators seem to think that money is the way to improve or correct the ails of public education. As a public school teacher, take a closer look at the amount of nepotism, and the poor leadership at our schools. We are in the business of educating people, adults and children, and yet no one who leads our schools seems to have any personality to create a dynamic team or leadership. If you think outside the box, you are black-balled from the district, and if you kiss ass, you move into higher positions without the knowledge or experience. It’s really quite sad. Just send us some good leaders!

  2. rivercitygirl says

    Money is not needed only the will of politicians and teacher’s unions to put children first instead of the adults. Fire the bad teachers, keep the good ones. Who cares how long a teacher has been teaching if she is doing a lousy job. Pay the good ones more and keep them. And we the parents, grandparents and all family members have to start speaking up and voting anyone down that is beholden to the unions.

  3. says

    I was at this PR for Karen Bass staged in the name of providing information on Federal changes for education – the speaker from the Obama Camp was/is as fraudulent as her boss. Her first attempt at claiming legitimacy failed when she talked about her “heartfelt” drive down Crenshaw Blvd. She didn’t reach the 350 or so people, who had come out to learn something, when she couldn’t answer any questions. I made it a point as folks exited and headed back home, to ask at least 100 of the attendees what they’d learned – ugh, was pretty much the response.

    Black folk don’t want to hear a bunch of polished-up jargon, like this article presents, we want to know one thing – How we gonna get Jamal to reading and make sure he doesn’t become the occupant of that new cell at the new prison THAT has been built or is being built in honor of educational failure

  4. prayforjustice says

    All the money is going to the the prison industry and to crooked polititans that line there pockets with the money!!!!!

  5. Ryder says

    There is plenty of money to “fix” education. It’s been done many times, and is continually being done, school by school, outside of the current public machine/system.

    Sadly, groups that put children SECOND have erected a massive public school system that has the primary purpose of seeing to the needs of adults. Good pay, excellent benefits and pensions, high wage administrative jobs in multi-layered school/district/county/national management structures, job security, etc. etc. etc. without regard to the negative consequences to students.

    Oh yeah, and they teach stuff to kids. Your mileage may vary.

    The schools that are doing it *better* are also doing it for less money. In other words, it is CHEAPER to do it right, but this means literally putting the children first. The current structure will not allow that.

    We have “fixed” public education dozens and dozens of times. Laws far too numerous to count, regulations in the tens of thousands of pages, at all levels of this massive bureaucracy. Anyone that thinks that doing more of the same will suddenly start working are insane… and the only people that believe in doing more of the same are: you guessed it, the people already connected to the current education system. Why? Because more of the same means more money, more benefits, bigger pensions, etc. etc. etc. And again, where are the kids in that equation? When money is pumped into education, it is soaked up by adults… very little getting into the classroom to benefit kids… and often when it does make it to the kids, it is wasted on pointless projects, like 10 million dollar indoor swimming pools, when what they really needed were books or a more competent teacher.

    The good news is that there ARE schools that are doing it right. They won’t be standard public schools… though some have been able to wedge themselves into the public system, gaining a foothold. You will know these schools by the fact that there are large public lotteries for children to get into them… parents desperate to have their kids attend. Some of the schools are private, some are charter, some go by other names, but in the end no matter what you call it, it is a room with children and a teacher inside. What is different about them is how they approach education.

    Seek them out. Stop allowing your money be taken and fed to “the machine”… and the failed schools that churn out some of the most unprepared students in the modern world.

    The Federal Department of Education was started not that many years ago… and since then has consumed insane amounts of money to fund it, and during it’s existence has seen our schools get WORSE. Worse results at great expense is the worst possible outcome… so if you care for your kids, get the Federal Government completely out of education… Gone. Forever. You’ll save money and get better results, almost instantly.

    Teachers know how to teach children. It’s their job. You know how to pick good teachers. It’s not complicated. Sure, all of the highly paid school system executives will cry like babies when you explain to them that they are no longer needed, but the children need that money.

    Take back your schools… from every powerful group there is… Feds, State, Unions, County, everyone. As parents, YOU are supposed to be the most powerful group. These are YOUR schools, paid for by YOU… and it’s YOUR children trapped in them. Most importantly, the education of your children is YOUR responsibility.

    How can you be responsible, when powerful groups are in full control?

    Educate yourself on this issue… then fight back, for your children. Reclaim your place as the most powerful force in education: The Parent.

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