In a previous post, I listed ten things that I would recommend school districts serving large numbers of low-income kids should consider. But what changes should we be advocating in society that would add to student success? Here I propose three that could have a huge positive impact on education:
1. Universal, no-hassle health care. Sick children can’t learn. With the present chaotic health system, compassionate schools feel forced to spend time and energy trying to get care for their students’ health problems, time that would be better spent on education. In addition, health care is consuming an increasing portion of education dollars, in part because public schools are among a decreasing number of employers offering generous health insurance.
2. Reduce teenage pregnancy. Children attempting to care for children find it hard to concentrate on their studies. And students failing in school disproportionately come from single-parent families, typically with a mother struggling to make ends meet. The catch is that effective programs to reduce teenage pregnancy violate some people’s moral or religious beliefs. Vouchers, by allowing objectors to find schools that match their values, may help defuse the cultural wars,.
3. Adopt policies that promote full employment. Unemployment hits young people the worst, both because they have the highest rates and because they miss out on the chance to learn job skills. A weak job market reinforces a belief that it is not worth trying in school. But unemployment also represents an opportunity: unused resources are available to build needed infrastructure, for example.
One commonly offered answer to this question is to end poverty. But this seems to get things backward. Historically, education has been the path out of poverty. Is it no longer to serve that role?