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What It Takes To Level The Playing Field

What It Takes To Level The Playing Field
RAISING ACADEMIC STANDARDS AND ELIMINATING achievement gaps between advantaged and underprivileged students are America’s preeminent goals. Current federal and state policies, however, largely ignore the fact that the childhood poverty rate in the United States, at 22 percent, is the highest in the industrialized world, and that poverty substantially impedes children’s ability to succeed in school.”

Thus reads the opening salvo of “Achievable and Affordable: Providing Comprehensive Educational Opportunity to Low-Income Students,” a new report by TC’s Campaign for Educational Equity that establishes a legal framework for providing the country’s neediest children with both improved educational resources and other “wrap-around services”–including health care and after-school programs. The report details the cost of providing those services and projects the long-term return on such an investment.

In “Achievable and Affordable,” Michael Rebell, Executive Director of the Campaign for Educational Equity, argues that the current federal No Child Left Behind legislation “implicitly establishes a statutory right to comprehensive educational opportunity through its stated goal of providing fair, equal and substantial educational opportunities to all children and its mandate that all children be proficient in meeting challenging state standards by 2014.”

The annual cost per child of public policies to narrow the achievement gap through comprehensive educational opportunity is estimated at $11,800 per child in New York City and $10,400 per child in New York State by co-authors Richard Rothstein, who is affiliated with both the Economic Policy Institute and the University of California (Berkeley) Law School, TC alumna Tamara Wilder Linkow, Senior Analyst with the public policy consulting firm Abt Associates, and Whitney Allgood, Chief of Staff for the News Literacy Project. They assume a full program of 18-and-a-half years, offered to children currently eligible for federally subsidized free and reduced-price lunches.

Based on estimates by co-authors Clive Belfield, Associate Professor of Economics at Queens College (CUNY) and Emma Garcia, Teaching Assistant in TC’s Department of International and Transcultural Studies, those costs would total approximately $4,750 more per child (in New York City) than what is now being spent for supports provided to underprivileged children.

Belfield, Henry Levin (TC’s William Heard Kilpatrick Professor of Economics and Education) and Fiona Hollands (TC Adjunct Professor of Education) calculate significant long-term return on this investment through increased high school graduate rates. For example, the authors find that New York City and State combined spend $82,000 on each high school dropout on healthcare, criminal justice, welfare and education, while receiving only $45,000 in tax revenues. In contrast, for students earning a BA or high school degree, the city and state expenditures total $55,000, while tax revenues are $143,000.

To mark the release of “Achievable and Affordable,” Rebell convened a group of leading policymakers at TC in early October to debate the report’s recommendations. Moderated by TC President Susan Fuhrman, the group included TC alumnus John King, New York State Commissioner of Education and President of the University of the State of New York; Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers; Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey, President of Say Yes to Education, an organization that has provided comprehensive support to children in several major U.S. cities throughout their K-12 education and then funded their college tuition; and David Wakelyn, New York State Deputy Secretary for Education.

To watch a stream of the October debate at Teachers College, visit http://bit.ly/vCFY2a
Read the full “Achievable and Affordable” report online at http://bit.ly/tyelLe

Published Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012


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