What are the answers to the conundrum posed in my prior post?  Poverty and educational inequality.  How about if we start with not tearing down (and demonizing) middle or upper income folks as some in our government viciously promote.
How about providing education on varied levels – family dynamic; health; nutrition; learning; reading; interacting; socialization; drug or substance rehab as needed; etc.   Opportunity for everyone should be mandatory (though outcome cannot be guaranteed).   More charter schools; more vouchers; more magnet schools; more tutors and mentors; etc.   Unions are destructive to education and should be forced out of the way.  Let’s not spend more money (Chicago spends more on primary and secondary school education per capita than any other city and yet has among the worst results).    Let’s spend the money wisely.  

There is, however, a pivotal question:  how do you encourage welfare families to get on board?   How do you encourage family involvement in education which is so very crucial to a child’s learning process?  Would it be unreasonable to mandate some quid pro quo  You want welfare?   Then attend neighborhood classes.  You will be involved in your children’s education.   Learn about nutrition.  If you’re pregnant, you don’t take drugs. Or smoke.    And you get prenatal counseling.  And your children will get private tutoring. Mentoring.  Opportunity.

Is it unreasonable to have at least some expectation that in exchange for welfare, people ought receive some inspiration and education for getting off welfare.   And for stimulating their children with the opportunity that all of us want to give them.  The problem is many of our politicians insist that welfare recipients are “victims.”  And they want to keep the poor – poor – by bribing them with money to get votes.  Result – According to the U.S. Census Bureau, poverty rates are rising.   Wouldn’t it be a higher moral objective if we strive to make these people and their children productive members of society.   Where am I going wrong here?

One thought on “Answers?

  1. Skip Housh

    This has been a tricky issue for years because what you are asking is that low-income families adopt your value system and conform to your ideas about how people in the US should behave.

    I’m not saying you are wrong. As you know, I share many – if not most – of your values. However, there is a large and growing segment of the US population who think we have made bad choices in working long and hard to earn a lifestyle that meets our expectation and desires. For that population segment, earning enough to get by through a combination of work, government support and support from charities is all they want. They are satisfied.

    At least in our part of the US, there is a big gap between what a single mom with one or more children receives in government support – about $35,000/yr – and what they can earn working full-time in a minimum wage job – assuming they can cobble together enough jobs with non-conflicting schedules to equal FTE. If a woman were able to do that, their annual income would go down. So why bother. Thanks to ObamaCare the probability of finding a minimum wage job where you work 40 hours per week is actually -0-. That job no longer exists in the US. Oh yeah, if Mom did cobble together 40 hours per week at minimum wage, she would lose her Medicaid coverage, as well. Bad as that can be, Medicaid is better than nothing.

    Better education is an obvious answer. However, if you started Kindergarten not ready to learn; if your parents didn’t read with you at least 20 minutes every day; if your parents punished you for every mistake instead of encouraging you to learn from your mistakes, even getting your GED is a huge hurdle.

    Most government support programs operate on a cliff basis. There is a sharp cut-off. Either you qualify or you don’t. Changing some of those programs to a phase-out would help.

    Incentives are another option. What if you could get a larger monthly TANF payment while you were in school?

    Assuring that all our kids are ready to learn once they start Kindergarten is a key part of addressing these issues. Nationally, about 30% of new Kindergarteners are Not Ready. While the focus is appropriately on positive results for kids, the target audience is the parents of preschoolers. How do we go about assuring the parents know their moment-by-moment interactions with their children largely determine readiness for school? How do we go about assuring that those parents understand how critical it is to their child’s future that the child be ready to learn? How do we go about convincing those parents that raising their children the way they were raised is not sufficient? How do we go about educating those parents that preparing their children for school is almost free? It requires the parents change their behavior. It requires more of their time. But the out-of-pocket costs are very low.

    The rewards are huge. Jim Heckman, University of Chicago Nobel-laureate economist and the Federal Reserve Bank have both calculated that the ROI for $1 invested in quality early childhood education for an at-risk child is $17/$1, most of which is benefit to the community. Even for a child not at-risk, the ROI is $7/$1.

    Where else can you get that high a return on your money?

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