Saturday, February 07, 2009

So Many Years. So Little Change.

I attended a symposium at Loyola University In Chicago on Friday, under the title of "Separate and Unequal? The Socioeconomic Realities of Public Education in America"

The first speaker was Veronica Anderson of CATALYST which has been hosting school policy forums that I've written about in the past few months. I encourage you to visit their web site and listen to the recordings of these.

Veronica talked about Charles Payne's book, "So Much Reform, So Little Change"

I encourage you to visit these sites and read some of the research showing that 77% of the kids in Illinois get an inadequate education, and poor and minority kids fare much worse.

So, why is this happening after so many years and so much funding? Is the issue funding, or is the issue CLASS AND RACISM?

Is this an issue of leadership and morality?

Ralph Martire, Executive Director for the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability was a speaker. I've followed his work for many years. He makes a strong case for tax increases.

However, he said, "it won't happen" because "it's not a question of logic, but one of BUMPER STICKER POLITICS".

What he means is that when any elected official says "I'll increase taxes" to pay for something we all know is needed, someone will run against that person saying "HE RAISED YOUR TAXES".

Thus, until we create the public will in thousands of people in Illinois to support law makers who provide the funding needed to educate ALL of Illinois' kids and make sure businesses want to locate in this state because of the quality of the workforce, the quality of schools, and the low costs of poverty, we will continue to reap the negative benefits of what actions we do not take.

I support volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs because they connect people who don't live in poverty, and don't share the same racial/ethnic/social economic background as most people who do live in poverty, with kids and families and schools that do have this challenge at the root of every problem in their daily lives.

I've seen volunteers transformed as they became involved with the youth they mentor and seen how many of these volunteers go to great lengths to help the child. Some even become leaders, donors, board members, and advocates, such as myself.

Increase the number of programs like Cabrini Connections who engage 70 to 100 workplace volunteers with inner city kids each year, and help these programs nurture and educate the volunteers so they do more to help the kids, the programs, and ultimately, the schools and legislators, and we'll build the PUBLIC WILL POWER that is missing in these discussions of education.

This is a marketing challenge, where the education we provide is directed at adults who need to be more responsible, not just the kids, families and teachers who are living in high poverty neighborhoods.

Help us do this work. Be the CHANGE.


char said...

We in the West often forget that as individuals we are part of something much bigger.

If we really cared about the future of our kids we would not balk at the taxes, nor seek to re-elect those that avoid making infrastructural changes that will actually enable that safe bright future to occur.

Colleen Gross said...

Dan - you have some great insights in this post. In our Public Innovators work (supporting a new wave of innovative government leaders who seek to encourage social innovation and grow the solutions that work), we helped develop the concept and business plan for the Louisiana Office of Social Entrepreneurship. In our research, we compared progress on an array of social issue indicators to spending on those same issues over a 20-year period. What we found was that although spending (across all sectors) had increased, the indicators had actually gotten worse. And I'm sure Louisiana is not alone in this.

So what do we do and to what do we attribute the fact that we are not making progress (at least on some issues)? I think we have to focus much more on being able to measure and hold ourselves accountable for the actual SOCIAL IMPACT of the investments we make. This means moving away from just what "feels good" or "sounds interesting" to something more disciplined.

But it's understandable, given the bumper sticker politics you mention, that elected official in government often support the "sexy" or emotionally appealing solutions, regardless of whether they offer any real impact. They're only responding to what we citizens are calling out for.

- Colleen Ebinger
Director of Public Innovators, Root Cause
More on this topic at

Tutor Mentor Connections said...

I think that if we model a form of "bottoms up leadership" or "intermediary" leadership we can demonstrate ways to support the involvement of hundreds, thousands, and then millions of people in on-going programs that help kids to careers. If we do this well we make it easy for elected leaders to add their own support and give a boost to these efforts.

I don't think anything will change without citizens leading the way.