By RiShawn Biddle
The opinions expressed are his own.
Reuters invited leaders in education to reply to Steven Brill’s op-ed on the school reform deniers. Below is Biddle’s reply. Here are responses from Joel Klein, Randi Weingarten, Diane Ravitch and others.
The vitriol over Steven Brill’s piece this week from Randi Weingarten, Diane Ravitch, Alex Kotlowitz and other defenders of the status quo isn’t surprising. After all, they are especially good at ignoring reality – especially when it comes to the role of the nation’s education crisis in fostering poverty in a knowledge-based economy in which what you know is more important than what you can do with your hands. And they are particularly willing to ignore the reality that school reform – including making sure that all kids are taught by high-quality teachers – is the long-term solution for saving 1.2 million children a year from poverty and prison.
One of the biggest reasons why America’s economic malaise may last for decades is because high school dropouts among the nation’s long term unemployed are essentially shut out of the jobs market. Fifteen percent of American high school dropouts age 25 and older were unemployed on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s nearly double the rate for high school graduates with some amount of college education and three times higher than that of collegians with bachelor’s degrees. The problem is even worse with the new generation of dropouts who have fewer prospects for employment; nearly a third of dropouts age 16-to-24 are out of work on a not seasonally-adjusted basis. These young men and women can’t get into high-paying white-collar jobs, or even get into apprenticeships for blue-collar jobs such as welding, which can provide them with middle-class incomes.
It is simple: The better-educated a person is — and the more education they get, the more likely they will avoid economic and social despair. The average African-American with some form of education will earn at least $9,142 more in annual income than a high school dropout. The higher levels of income not only benefit people and their families. The rewards flow into the communities in which they live, with higher levels of home ownership, entrepreneurial activities, and civic activities that lead to high quality of life that benefits everyone.
High-quality education and good-to-great teachers can’t alleviate economic poverty for the short term. But it does help young men and women get the knowledge they need to avoid poverty in adulthood. Education, unlike food stamps, equals empowerment. For our kids, for whom schools are at the centers of their worlds and communities, high-quality teachers and strong principals can help foster shelters from the storms around them.