The Money Trail in Education Reform Leads to Everyone But Those Who Need It The Most

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Mark Naison is a Professor of African-American Studies and History at Fordham University and Director of Fordham's Urban Studies Program. He is the author of three books and over 100 articles on African-American History, urban history, and the history of sports. His most recent book, White Boy: A Memoir, was published in the spring of 2002

In the last ten years, tens of billions of dollars have been spent to reform America’s schools—some of it coming from the federal Department of Education, some of it from state legislatures, some of it from private foundations.  This money has gone to fund research on Common Core Standards, to close failing schools and open up new ones, to create new protocols for assessing schools and teachers, to create new batteries of tests to evaluate students learning, to bring management consultants into school systems and in some cases into individual schools and to fund charter schools and educational maintenance organizations.

In New York City, education reform funding has spawned a variety of new public sector careers, ranging from “accountability officers” within the Department of Education, to the heads of charter school companies making multiple six figure salaries, to management consultants on the payroll of the DOE, to scores of new principals whose jobs have created in small schools created when large, allegedly “failing” ones have been broken up.  When you add this the tens of millions of dollars spent to create new computer systems for the DOE, and the hundreds of millions of dollars given to publishing companies like McGraw Hill to create new tests for almost every subject and every grade, you can see the opportunity for profit making and career building this movement has inspired among aspiring professionals.

But how much of this funding has gone directly to the people this reform movement was supposedly created to help, working-class and minority students and their families?  How many jobs for students, or their parents, have education reform funds created, either in school programs or after school centers.  Has this money helped keep families in their apartments, allowed them to secure medical care or access better sports, arts and recreation programs?

The answer to this is a resounding no.  No!  In New York City and around the nation, the funds have created a whole new layer of middle-class professionals in the schools, most of them white, and helped create opportunities for profit to a number of private corporations, but have done nothing to ease the burden of poverty on the nation’s working class and minorities.

As of 2011, the child poverty rate in the United States had reached twenty-five percent, the highest level since the Depression, and black unemployment had reached sixteen percent.  Given this, how can the supporters of test driven education reform, whether they are in Washington, state houses, city halls, or the offices of major foundations, justify spending tens of billions of dollars to ( allegedly) improve schools without one cent of it going into the pockets of poor people!

While people are losing their homes, their jobs, their medical care, their recreational opportunities, and are experiencing daily fear and stress, new school professionals are flooding their communities with programs that to date have offered no return on their investment to the people they were allegedly designed to benefit.

What we have in America, put forwardby those who claim to put “children first”, is a cynical round of profit taking and career building reminiscent of the Gilded Age.

It’s time that people serious about ending poverty in America take a serious look at the education reform movement and follow the money trail!

From what I can see, it leads directly into more profits for the haves, and more hardship for the have nots.

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