Do zoning ordinances limit inner city prosperity? Where will political support for increased federal spending for the poor come from? How much money spend on the "War on Poverty" was wasted? Why is inner city education so poor? How would inner city work programs be implemented? Will this summer's welfare reforms help or hurt the inner city? Is a "race war" on the horizon? How can inner cities be reconnected to the rest of Amercian society? Viewer comments Kathryn Pater of Normal, IL, asks:
I am particularly concerned about the education of the poor in large urban cities. What measures do you think need to be taken to change the quality of education within urban areas? What or whom do you feel is to blame for the bad shape that schools are in today?
Dr. Wilson responds:
As I argued in "When Work Disappears," a commitment to a system of national performance standards for every public school in the United States would be an important first step in addressing the huge gap in educational performance between the schools in advantaged and disadvantaged neighborhoods -- including schools in poor urban neighborhoods. This assumes that standard-setting -- as a meaningful route to reform -- will be designed to address the current inequalities in the public school system. Accordingly, a system of national performance standards should include the kind of support that would enable schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods to meet the standards that are set.
State government, with federal support, not only would have to create equity in local school funding and develop programs that would foster teacher development (through scholarships and forgivable loans for teacher education to attract more high-quality teachers, through increased supports for teacher training in schools of education, and through reforms in teacher certification and licensing) but would also have to ensure that highly qualified teachers are distributed in local school districts in ways that provide all students with access to excellent instruction.
In some cases this would require greater flexibility in the public school system, not only to attract and hire qualified teachers, but also to displace those who perform poorly in the classroom and lack a dedication to teaching. Local education agencies and state education departments should be helped to identify schools that need support in curriculum development and assessment, teacher development, educational and material resources, and so on.
As far as who is to blame for the bad shape of many of our urban schools, let me say that the problem is related to the way in which public education is organized in the United States. In our country, the quality of local public schools in is in large measure related to the resources of local governments (e.g., local property taxes have been traditionally used to finance education). In Europe, where strong central governments have exerted a good deal of control over population movements, education and urban developments, the quality of local public schools is far less determined by the resources of local governments and therefore the association between schooling and residence is not nearly as strong.