Mo’ Money for Schools — to Honor the Civil Rights Movement

So, this is what the Civil Rights movement has come to 50 years after Brown v. Board of Education: There’s nothing wrong with Virginia’s failing public school systems that showering them with more money won’t solve. In a nutshell that’s the message conveyed by Oliver Hill, Jr., and Andrew Block in an op-ed piece in today’s Times-Dispatch.

Hill and Block construct a rickety argument that leans upon nearly every prop of liberal thinking about schools in common currency today. They start their column by hijacking the moral authority of the 1960s civil rights movement. “Our political leaders,” they write, “should continue to honor Virginia’s civil rights legacy by funding an educational system that meets the needs of all of our students, including those same children of color for whom so many fought so hard.”

The Standards of Quality, which redistributes billions of dollars in state aid from affluent school districts to poor ones, is not enough to “ensure equality of educational opportunity,” they continue. Neither is the $354 million in “at risk” funding that supports special programs for poor children. Low-income students, they assert, need “additional resources to be successful.”

Nowhere in their column do Hill and Block allude to the fact that many minority-dominated school districts spend significantly more per pupil than neighboring suburban school districts. Nowhere do they mention the scandalous bureaucracy and waste in many of those school districts — a bureaucracy that Mayor L. Douglas Wilder, incidentally, has targeted in his ongoing battle with the Richmond School Board.

The thrust of the Hill-Block column is to absolve minorities from making any financial sacrifice themselves, restructuring educational bureaucracies or altering their own cultural values or attitudes towards education. More money is the solution, and the onus falls squarely upon the taxpayers of Virginia to dig deeper into their pockets — or dishonor the civil rights movement.

This is the same old, minorities-as-victims ideology that has fostered passivity among poor African-Americans and kept them them dependent upon the largesse of whites. While Hill and Block purport to honor the heroes of the Civil Rights movement of 50 years ago, their antiquated thinking keeps poor African-Americans mired in the role of supplicants. Virginia would do far better to emulate the example of those hundreds of thousands of African-Americans who have escaped poverty and joined the economic mainstream of society. What was their secret? How can their success be replicated?

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  1. There’s a difference between ‘showering with $’ and properly funding priorities.

    Richmond Public Schools are in terrible shape. The buildings are falling down, not energy efficient to say the least, and, most importantly, not ADA compliant, which has resulted in costly lawsuits.

    I would think Oliver Hill’s legacy is about equal access to quality education, but Richmond leaders continue to fund downtown development while ignoring the schools and ADA.

    Its a moral failure.

  2. I misspoke when I said RPS are in terrible shape. What I meant to say is that RPS BUILDINGS are in terrible shape.

    Some of RPS are winning awards and national recognition, despite their crumbling infrastructure and their lack of ADA.

    More here:

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    There is NEVER enough money.

    It is ALWAYS about priorities.

    Schools are NOT a jobs program for those who need jobs.

    I would be just fine with the “adequately fund” mantra if they want to show what we get for different levels of funding AND taxpayers actually have a say in the level of funding – but I totally and absolutely REJECT .. ANY argument that is based on “we need more” and “it’s none of your DANG business how we will spend it – leave that to us” .. and “oh.. and don’t try to measure our cost-effectiveness either or we’l wrap the “poor kids” flag around us.

    Some of the most arrogant public officials that spend tax money is Virginia are Education community.

    How dare taxpayers question THEIR priorities; you’d think these guys represented the King… in their dealings with taxpayers…

    taxpayers are the present-day serfs.

    You sweat your 8-12 hours a day.. and then later on .. representatives of the King show up to relieve you of your earnings… and if you question the process or the ultimate use of your funds.. you are sternly reminded of your serf status…

  4. Larry, VCU’s ever growing tax-exempt empire reminds me of what a serf I am.

    You can keep spouting off your anti-tax theories any old time, but not this time, and I might agree with you some of the times, but this ADA priority is fundamentally equal access to a quality education.

    Does the National Guard have to come out like in Little Rock?

  5. Heard the Times Disgrace bumped a Sunday story on ADA in RPS for some front-page VCU press release.

    I also heard a very qualified teacher in a wheelchair who applied to RPS got turned away for lack of ADA infrastructure.

    I repeat: Its a moral failure that will continue to cost us until it is properly recognized and fixed.

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I agree with money for ADA but who makes the decisions about how to spend the money?

    Do you want the folks who supply the money to specifically earmark some of it for ADA or are you arguing that ADA is “an example” of what happens when you do not get them “enough” money?

    What I object to .. is a grocery list of “deficiencies” that result “because” not enough money is appropriated but a lack of accountability with respect to the prioritiziation of the existing money nor a commitment to spend additional money SPECIFICALLY on the cited deficiencies AND agree to performance accountabilities for the funds expended for those specific purposes.

    The “give us more money” because our problems are due to not enough money is a bogus argument that deserves to be rejected out of hand.

    and let’s be straight – this is not “anti tax” – this is accountability .

    If the Richmond School Board submits a budget that includes ADA then when they get funds – they are the ones who decide what to spend funds on – correct?

    are we saying that they submit a budget for capital improvements that include ADA and they don’t get all they asked for for capital improvements?

    do they get ZERO funds for capital improvements?

    Do they FIX .. NONE of the ADA or only as much as they get funds for so they can show incremental improvements as best as can be done with the limited funds?

    I’ve got about another 20 questions here but perhaps the point is made.

    what are the answers to the questions?

  7. Mr. Bacon, in his comments on the op-ed piece written by Andy Block and myself, uses the anti-education mantra of “throwing money” at the schools whenever there is an effort to prevent cuts on education spending. No one is advocating spending money in ineffective ways, and there is a need for evaluation and accountability with all spending.

    But the key fact is that the overall quality of education for many of our porrest and most vulnerable students is a national disgrace. We must have the resolve do do whatever is necessary to turn this deplorable situation around. If we don’t, this will be a threat to our future national security that will dwarf any posed by external terrorism. Perhaps if we readjusted our national priorities and didn’t “throw so much money” at unnecessary wars or tax breaks for the rich, we could have the resources to turn American education around. There is no more important investment we can make in our future.
    –Posted by Oliver Hill, Jr.

  8. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Mr. Hill, Thanks for chiming in. I think we can all would agree that education is the most important investment we can make in our future. Most everyone would concur that the quality of education for the poorest and most vulnerable citizens is a national disgrace. And I suspect that most would share your sentiment that additional investment is justified to help “at risk” children participate fully in Virginia society.

    The issue is not the broad aim of helping poor children. The issue is how we go about it.

    We have been following your recommendation of pumping increasing amounts of money into Virginia’s public schools for decades, with no let-up in recent years. Per-pupil spending has soared. To what effect? I would direct you to two recent posts on Bacon’s Rebellion, both based on the findings of the Clare Booth Luce Policy Institute’s recent study comparing the educational bang-for-the-buck provided by different school systems.

    How Efficiently Do Virginia School Districts Use Their Money? Answers at Last


    And the Best Deal in Education Is…. Poquoson!

    How would you respond to the arguments raised in that report? In the absence of major structural reform to our school systems, what makes you think that spending more money is not just throwing money down the drain?

  9. Anonymous Avatar

    Schools clearly need money, but we all need more accountability from our public schools.

    A few years ago, I sent an email to the then superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of New York. That system educates more than 110,000 students, many of whom are minority and come from homes with incomes below the poverty level. The percentages were higher than those for Fairfax County.

    I asked how many people were on the central staff. The answer was less than 30. Fairfax County had, at the very same time, around 200 “curriculum specialists.” Probably still does. And Fairfax County is a top-notch district.

    Public education is a jobs program and a payoff to public sector unions. We need accountability for the dollars we send to our public schools. Let’s hear our education advocates advocate staff layoffs and transfers of funds to the classrooms.


    P.S. I have two children in FCPS, so I am a supporter of public schools. Let’s just run them for the benefit of the public and not for the public sector unions.

  10. Groveton Avatar

    The following list provides the per capita incomes for all the jurisdictions in Virginia.

    If you click on the jurisdiction you will be linked to additional information about the jurisdiction – including demographic data.

    I looked at the 10 poorest jurisdictions on the list. Only one jurisdiction has an African American population over 5% of the total population.

    Poverty in Virginia is not restricted to any one race.

    As I have repeatedly mentioned, there are more people living below the Federal poverty line in Fairfax County than there are total people living in 75 Virginia counties.

    Poverty in Virginia is not restricted to any one geographic area.

    The SOQs are an unmitigated disaster that have been bastardized by a intellectually dishonest General Assembly. Far from helping poor children the current allocation process is a subsidization of absurdly low tax rates in various Virginia localities. Politicians who are trying to fix the SOQ mess are not violating anybody’s civil rights. Rather, they are trying to bring sanity to a funding allocation process that is grossly incompetent and culpably negligent.

    I agree with Dr. Hill’s goal of spending more education dollars on the state’s poorest children. A good first step in this effort would be a wholesale scrapping of the failed SOQ funding allocation process. A good second step would be an analysis of poverty in Virginia without the usual racial and geographic mis-statements.

    A poor kid is a poor kid no matter the color of their skin or location of their home. And a con game is a con game whether it’s called “three card monte” or “Virginia’s SOQ funding allocation system”.

  11. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I completely agree.

    If we need to spend more money for at risk kids – I’m in favor of it as long as we have some idea of how much more is needed to get to some agreed-to level and I’d favor this even though we currently spend more on education than any other country in the world and yet we place 10th or worse on academic proficiency and we fail to graduate about 25% of our kids – most of them at-risk kids.

    I think what is immoral – is to take more and more money from taxpayers and then refuse to account for results – as opposed to the idea that accounting merely means you can show that you did spend it.

    we have folks who wander by BR from time to time who call such attitudes as “anti-tax” and it’s wrong and a disservice because what is being advocated is PERFORMANCE for the dollars spent – recognizing that virtually 1/2 of all local/state tax dollars go for one purpose – education – at the expense of roads, mental health, and other important priorities which cannot be “fully funded” as a direct consequence of education getting first crack at the funds.

    I’m not an anti-taxer.. I actually think it’s a dumb one-size-fits-all concept but I understand how folks arrive at that point because of their frustration of pouring more and more dollars into things that simply do not produce even minimal results… so .. folks basically give up on the system and establish a philosophical “firewall” against any more taxes.

    The “more money for education” folks, are.. in a real sense.. responsible for the “anti-tax” sentiment as well as abuser fees… in my view..

    Even Kaine is attempting to go around the existing entrenched by getting funding DIRECTLY for at-risk Pre-K .. instead of giving more general funds and asking that they be prioritized towards at-risk.

    so what he is doing is .. an earmark.. with performance standards…

    by the way..that is the same way the Federal Program for at risk kids also works.

    The money can ONLY be spent on specific things and there are performance standards that have to be met to keep the money.

    so that is what I favor.

    Any “more” money needs to be specifically tied to performance results.

  12. E M Risse Avatar

    As frequently happens, Groveton makes some important points.

    The first one is that the 200 plus year old borders of municipal agencies make no sense. To consider Fairfax County a single place is silly.

    The second point relates to a larger problem we will address in the context of Jim Bacon’s column on human capital.

    In our column today we point out that many programs run by Agencies, Enterprises and Institutions (in the column we are focused on information gathering and distribution but also cite education as an example of an area of desperate need) must have far more support.

    For reasons we list in the column, that support must come not from taxes, profits or donations but from citizen contributions of time and effort in their own self-interest.


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