Thursday, March 01, 2007

Unintended Consequences of District 95's decline - Attack on area Pre-Schools

It is interesting when you look at the situation in our elementary school district 95, they are shedding buildings and adding services, in a time where total enrollment should be up in K-8. My two example of this are the selling of Winkler School and its conversion into a Christian school; and adding a free pre-school for every 3 and 4 year old child in the district.

The reason they have the "flexibility" to do these thing is the parents aren't sending their kids there anymore. A reasonable estimate is that 500 to 700 children who would be in District 95 have moved out of district, are being home schooled or are attending private school. That is a whole lot of kids. These number might be conservative, we are in the middle of the baby boomlet after all.

Since the school district added free pre-K classes, this changes the economic landscape for the traditional child care providers in the area. It is hard to complete with free and paid for by the property owners. It wouldn't surprise me to see the for profit places convert to new born care in response.

I would provide you with weblinks to the programs, but their website really stinks. I can't figure out from there what exactly is offered based on the site. Though the 0-3 program looks very cool. It is interesting, it really bothers me that I can't read their webpage and understand what they offer.

Across the country, there aren't many schools that are able to sell buildings and add services in times of increasing students. I'm not sure this is trend that Carbondale can afford.


Anonymous said...

My kid is in the pre-K program and its awesome. Why is it a bad thing that they want to provide free early education? It puts someone out of business? Well, yeah, that makes a tiny dent in the local economy but it provides increased (and more fair) access to early childhood education on some basis other than income. I say hooray.

Peter in Carbondale said...

You are right of course, it is really cool to have free programs that someone else pays for. If you take this to the logically conclusion we should have free programs for everything! Putting that aside, there are few places on this earth that are more in need of support for our parents then Carbondale. We have way to many uneducated, underemployed, underage, unmarried parents and their children are at great risk of falling behind and never catching up.

The problem is that the free market has spoken. People are running from District 95 to other school solutions. So, after getting this great pre-K program, you are looking at sending your child into a school with bad (not just poor) test scores.

It is a cycle of downward results that we see often in Illinois, always for the worse. It is the cycle called "White Flight" in Chicago. Leading all sorts of other social problems as you remove the richest and most educated parents from a poorly performing school district.

The teachers are effected by this, because you can only teach so many problem kids before you burn out. You can only drag a kid up several more steps then is reasonable, so many times. So good teachers have to make a super human effort, not just for a few kids who are behind, but in may cases for half the students in the class. Yes, in District 95 in many classes more then half the students test out at below grade level.

When you think about economic development in Carbondale, District 95 is one of the big problems. It is interesting to stack data up about ways to look at that problem.

It is time that the parents of District 95 start to ask them to do better and do better working with their own kids. I'm glad for this program and for the Boys and Girl's Club with both directly address this issue. But the school board getting a whack on the side of the head might be required.

Anonymous said...

" You are right of course, it is really cool to have free programs that someone else pays for."

Um, public schooling. Its one of the things that built this nation. It also happens to be the kind of thing that is good for everyone (more educated citizens is better than less educated citizens), including business.

But this stuff about a free market is hogwash. People leave school districts for all kinds of reasons, the quality of the school district being only one of them. For example, White Flight (which you raise) is less about school quality than it is about race and racist fears.

Peter in Carbondale said...

We are funding public schools at a historical level even adjusted for inflation. So the results aren't about funding. The results are certainly about the parents of the children.

Actually, the free market hogwash exactly represents that is happening. When test scores go down, good parents leave. True everywhere. It is a cop out to call everyone who wants better classroom conditions for their child a racist. It isn't true and doesn't describe what happens. Further, in places where there are no racial problems, this is still true.

I have written here before that District 95's results would get better if they would track the classes, as they used to. Many parents catch the disparity of preparation in the students and start looking or a house in Unity Point as soon as they enter the system. It isn't that they are afraid of black people, they just want their child to have a better chance at a great education.

There is an argument that tracking the classes hurts the self esteem of the poorly prepared students. But in fact, the results of all tracks were better before under tracking. You can't tell me that a kid is so stupid that when their classmate can read at 3rd grade level in first grade, while they can't do the ABC's, that they don't know?

Welcome to Carbondale where market forces exist, but are seen as magical forces. Capitalism here is like the Coke bottle in "The Gods Must Be Crazy."

Anonymous said...

Only in Carbondale would a self-proclaimed Democrat/progressive look at public pre-school for all kids and proclaim it to be a bad idea. The whole idea behind public goods is that they are just that -- public goods. Markets aren't always good. Economists have known this for along time (at least since John Nash published his initial thesis on rationality), but it seems to escape everyone who hates to pay taxes.

I have no problem if private companies want to provide alternatives or if parents want to homeschool their kids. Have at it. Paying for public education is still the best, most fundamental investment any community can make in its own future.



Peter in Carbondale said...

I didn't write that District 95's preschool is a bad thing. You may need to reread the whole thread with your emotion turned off and your brain turned on?

It isn't that we have to agree to disagree, you simply don't understand what I wrote.