Friday, April 21, 2006

Gary Orfield

I am very much looking forward to a discussion with such a remarkable group. I was glad to participate in Williams and I have always supported the goals of resource litigation but have not been satisfied with the results. As a political scientist who has studied and participated in many legal and public policy disputes over educational equity since the l960s it seems to me that we have to think about hard questions including:

1) If we are going to require more resource be given to high poverty schools, how can we attach them firmly to the relatively small number of interventions that clearly increase educational achievement and opportunity?

Excellent and experienced teachers are a primary example of resources that must be reallocated somehow for any approach to equity. Serious college prep courses taught at an appropriate level by qualified people supported by serious counseling are another. Both of these, for example, relate to the preparation of the peer group ready and willing to take the appropriate classes,especially at the high school level and the fact that teachers and staff in high poverty schools have to deal with many things that teachers in middle class schools can largely ignore and that those overwhelmingly white and completely middle class professionals often feel uncomfortable and unsupported and can transfer to other jobs with fewer demands where they can focus on teaching their subjects with many fewer distractions and more community support. How can courts and advocates work with educators to think about ways to change incentives and support systems?

2) What could be a compelling metaphor for the effort, since it is obvious that much more than equal resources will be necessary for any approach at equal opportunity in segregated high poverty schools? Adequacy makes sense legally but has no clear public resonance.

3) Don't we have to take on a campaign to reverse tax cuts and increase public resources generally if there is to be any lasting remedy andif we do not want to cut housing and health care to boost education funds? Or do we simply assume education is adequate by itself to remedy inequalities?

4) Aren't we saying that Plessy is a viable policy if we ignore the racial dimensions of the problem? If so, where is any example of a successful and lasting Plessy-type success in the past 110 years? If not, must there not be a treatment of the underlying realities as part of rethinking Rodriguez? Wasn't one of the problems of Rodriguez that the racial issues were not made explicit enough? Isn't one of the realities of pure finance cases that the money is never enough, that the institutions that get it are not very good, and that there is no restructuring of community or politics that can sustain a remedy at an adequate level over time?

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