America’s public education system strives to increase the scholastic performance of K-12 students and to narrow the achievement gap between white and black students. These have been its two main goals since the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in 1965. The first goal is important, especially in today’s labor market, where wage rates are set globally. In effect, graduating American students must compete for jobs with their counterparts in countries such as China — an economic juggernaut powered by an immense low-wage labor force. They must also compete for jobs with millions of immigrants (legal and illegal) that American companies hire to reduce labor costs.
The importance of the second goal became evident with the publication of the Coleman Report, “Equality of Educational Opportunity,” in 1966. It was a landmark study that meticulously quantified the stark differences in scholastic performance between white and black students in schools throughout the country. Coleman’s study was of such influence that, following its release, every major education reform concocted by America’s elite education experts has treated the black-white academic achievement gap as a major civil rights issue.
To this end, enormous sums of money have been expended to improve school quality in low-income communities. The federal government alone has spent well over $2 trillion (inflation-adjusted) since 1965. Today, the average annual spending per student by federal, state, and local government exceeds $15,000. Education experts believe that this is a reasonable price for the ever-increasing progress they have made — that their policies have been the paragon of progress. They proclaim that the current version of ESEA — the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015 — was an improvement over the previous version — the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2002, which was an improvement over the Improving America’s Schools Act (IASA) of 1994, and so on. At the top of the homepage of its website, the Department of Education proclaims that it “fosters educational excellence, and to ensures equal access to educational opportunity for all.” That is literally the way the passage reads. And since this is its unambiguous mission statement (no doubt reviewed, and approved, by numerous education experts), we can expect DOE fostering to ensures closing the achievement gaps.
To the education cabal, lack of government spending explained the achievement gap; lack of family, religion, or community did not.
But we can’t. Scads of money closed the spending gap between white and black schools, thereby ensuring equal opportunity. Compared to other nations, however, America did not improve in scholastic performance. And money didn’t budge the achievement gap. In 2016, the fiftieth anniversary of the Coleman report, Stanford professor Eric Hanushek wrote, “After nearly a half century of supposed progress in race relations within the United States, the modest improvements in achievement gaps since 1965 can only be called a national embarrassment.” That embarrassment persists today. In a recent opinion piece for The Hill, in which he assessed the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) report, Mr. Hanushek lamented, “Math scores among Black 13-year-olds have dropped to lows not seen since the mid-1980s, and the Black-white achievement gap has widened to 42 points,” and asked how such a failure could happen.
It happened because the experts failed to heed Coleman’s principal conclusion, that “schools bring little influence to bear on a child’s achievement that is independent of his background and general social context; and that this very lack of an independent effect means that the inequalities imposed on children by their home, neighborhood, and peer environment are carried along to become the inequalities with which they confront adult life at the end of school.” But to the education cabal, lack of government spending explained the achievement gap; lack of family, religion, or community did not.
In the decades following Coleman’s study, public education spending exploded, but on schools; only lip-service was paid to the socioeconomic conditions of low income communities. While student enrollment increased by a meager 8%, the cost per student increased by an astounding inflation-adjusted 280%. Teaching staff increased by 60% and non-teaching staff by 138%. In half of our schools, the size of the non-teaching staff now exceeds the size of the teaching staff.
That is, the vast majority of the money was not spent on students. It was spent building an obese, meddlesome education bureaucracy run by parasitic education experts (principals, superintendents, administrators, school board members, teachers’ union leaders, politicians, etc.). Let’s call them educites.
It is a bureaucracy that is deeply flawed, and has been for decades. Its failings are of such magnitude that even the New York Times noticed. In her article “‘It Just Isn’t Working’: PISA Test Scores Cast Doubt on U.S. Education Efforts,” Dana Goldstein addressed the global education gap. Her analysis of the 2018 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) exam results found that “American 15-year-olds are stagnant in reading and math even though the country has spent billions to close gaps with the rest of the world.” She cited reading as a particular weakness, noting that “about a fifth of American 15-year-olds scored so low on the PISA test that it appeared they had not mastered reading skills expected of a 10-year-old,” and, equally disturbing, that “the top performers in reading were four provinces of China” — Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang.” Incidentally, these are places where American companies set up their manufacturing operations, to capitalize on the educated population.
The vast majority of the money was not spent on students. It was spent building an obese, meddlesome education bureaucracy.
As to the black-white achievement gap, educites are effectively oblivious to nonacademic gaps that are of much greater concern to black American families. The murder gap is one. Black Americans, who constitute less than 13% of the population, are responsible for almost 56% of the murders — a rate eight times greater than that of white Americans. And in 91% of the murders in which the offender is a Black American, the victims are other Black Americans. Then there is the unwed mother gap: 77% of black children are born to unwed mothers, compared to 30% for white children. That is, more than three quarters of Black children are brought up in a father-detached environment in which crime, violence, drugs, and female denigration are sometimes the dominant influence — a dysfunctional influence glamorized in the relentless blare of rap music.
In the world of rap, ironically, education is often considered oppression, and “a rapper’s biggest enemy is their K-12 teachers.” But educites are much more deserving of that designation. After all, educites set the policies that teachers must follow. And when policies fail, there are no consequences. Indeed, failure leads to budget increases that enlarge their salaries and power. That is, for educites, failure is success. They are rewarded for their incompetence while students who are trapped in the public school system (to say nothing of taxpayers) are punished.
Nowhere is this model adhered to more faithfully than in New York City, where grade inflation and absenteeism are rampant, the average cost per student is $31,000, and most of those who manage to graduate and enter college are sorely unprepared. According to a recent New York Post article, “nearly half of all New York City public school graduates who head to local community colleges are forced into remedial classes to survive their first semester.” Meanwhile, because of the education debacle (and other factors, such as high crime, high cost of living, and high taxes), families with children have been stampeding out of NYC — a growing trend that is likely to continue. As Matt Welch notes in Reason, during the past four years, “the municipally operated portion of the New York City public school system has lost more than 136,000 students,” as “the annual Department of Education (DOE) budget increased over that time — by $4 billion.” In response, NYC educites decided to hire more teachers. That is, confronted with plummeting demand for their low quality product, they decided to raise its price. The result: per-student cost this fall is estimated to be $38,000. By fiscal year 2026, it is expected to be $41,000, but when “adding unbudgeted yet likely collective bargaining costs, per-student spending would reach nearly $44,000 in fiscal year 2026.”
When policies fail, there are no consequences. Indeed, failure leads to budget increases that enlarge their salaries and power.
NYC is hardly the exception. Arrogant and unaccountable educites preside over abysmally failing school systems in numerous US cities. For school year 2022, not a single student in 55 Chicago public schools was found to be proficient in mathematics or reading. In Washington D.C., where the average cost per student is almost double the national average, Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Christina Grant reported “declines across all eight wards.” While 70% of white students tested at grade level in mathematics and 79% in reading, only 9% of African American students tested at grade level in mathematics and 20% in reading. Dr. Sonja Santelises, the CEO of Baltimore public schools, collected $444,775 in 2022, while presiding over 23 schools where not a single student was proficient in mathematics. Instead of firing her, or cutting her salary, Baltimore’s mayor held a surprise press conference to celebrate her sixth year on the job.
Add to this the smarmy schemes of diversity officers — a rapidly growing and powerful cadre of political activists lurking within the ranks of educites. As the spending gap closed, blame for the achievement gap shifted from funding shortfalls to the ghastly horrors of white supremacy. But unlike the old excuse (always remedied with budget increases), the new excuse demands the dismantling of classic liberal education. To the diversity crowd, traditional education is based on oppressive teaching methods developed over America’s sinful past by white, meritocratic, religious, heterosexual males; it is the cause of achievement gaps. They insist that the gaps can be closed by indoctrinating students with the ideologies behind critical race theory, Marxism, “toxic masculinity,” transgenderism, and censorship.
Although the diversity grift has been gaining in popularity, especially in the large school districts of Democrat-leaning states, it will not close achievement gaps. The catalog of America’s historical injustices is a lot to absorb, even for 15-year-olds who can read better than 10-year-olds. Moreover, knowledge of white privilege or gender dysphoria will not help students get a job when they graduate, or compete with international counterparts who possess a higher proficiency in reading, math, and science. And the black-white achievement gap is actually widening where the diversity schemes prevail. A Heritage Foundation study found the gap in districts with a chief diversity officer (CDO) to be significantly wider than in those without. Specifically, “In districts with CDOs, the achievement gap is half a grade level larger, with the average black student being 2.4 grade levels behind the average white student.”
In discussing the entertainment industry’s portrayal of rappers in music videos, Black jazz critic Stanley Crouch once described them as “monkey-moving, gold-chain wearing, illiteracy-spouting, penis-pulling, sullen, combative buffoons.” If the education industry produced music videos about our public education system’s attempts to close academic achievement gaps, audiences would have no trouble identifying the educite characters. They would be the (usually white, always sanctimonious) penis-pullers. But unlike rappers, who pull their own penises, the edicites are pulling ours.