Rebecca Elliott, MPH
Lesson 7: The Economics of Education
Here we go…
Well friends, so far in our journey we have covered a lot. We discussed the purpose of education, and how the way the United States does schooling is far from reaching the desired goal. We talked about the messages sent by school infrastructure, discipline policies, and curriculum. We even discussed the way that schooling helps to uphold a racist status quo. Given all the problems that reality has made obvious, it begs the question: who stands to benefit from this education system that produces neither true education nor truly educated citizens? Today we are going to explore the economics of our education system, and who it stands to benefit.
Follow the.. opportunity atlas?
Public schools in the United States are funded using a variety of revenue streams, but nearly 50% of funding (44% to be exact) is received through property taxes from homeowners. The other half, (48%) comes from various state resources, including income taxes and sales taxes. Another eight percent comes from federal funding, mainly in the form of grants. That being said, a large determinant of if you will receive a quality version of America’s non-education is where you live. If you pay more in property taxes for better neighborhoods, your schools get more funding, and therefore the “education” is higher quality.
There is an online analytical tool called The Opportunity Atlas, which can accurately estimate children’s outcomes in adulthood based on their zip code, gender, and parents’ income. Everything from earning distributions to future incarceration rates can be found using this tool. It will come as no surprise then that children from neighborhoods with low property values, therefore inherit the worst version of America’s already problematic education. As always, poor people, including children, suffer the most. But here’s the thing: there are a lot of poor children in the US. In fact, the United States has the highest rate of child poverty in the developed world, with one in six of all children living in poverty. So if education quality is intrinsically linked to wealth, who exactly stands to benefit from a generation of workers where at least 15% of them received a subpar education?
The economics of "Patriotic Education"
In response to both Critical Race Theory, and the waning approval of capitalism among young Americans, states have been scrambling to create what they see as a more “patriotic education”, essentially another, albeit more aggressive, way to indoctrinate youth into more American exceptionalism, pro-business propaganda. In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott signed into law the creation of the 1836 Project– a rebuttal against The New York Times 1619 Project- which promotes “ the principles that make Texas, Texas,” especially the “legacy of economic prosperity”. This curriculum patriotically does not mention certain aspects of Texas’s no doubt illustrious history, like how The Constitution of the Republic of Texas legalized slavery and excluded indigenous people from gaining independence, or how slavery was essentially the root cause of Texas seeking independence from Mexico. Similarly, The 1776 Report, one of the legacies of the Trump Administration, is strangely slavery apologetic, leaving out the critical role slavery played in the current wealth of white American families nationwide, and spoke little of how the practice influences everything from policing to the wealth gap. I personally do not have a solid understanding of the concept of Critical Race Theory, but the disturbing trend towards warped history in the name of “patriotism” should be disturbing for anyone who believes that education should first be rooted in truth.
According to an Axios Poll, 18-34 year old Americans are almost evenly split between those who view capitalism favorably and those who view it negatively (49% positive, 46% negative). For reference, two years prior the margin was 20 points (58% positive, 38% negative). Like clockwork, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed three civil literacy bills into law, including House Bill Five, which adds a requirement to public high school government classes, that students receive instruction on “the evils of Communism and Totalitarian ideologies.” DeSantis also mentioned teaming up with a D.C. based organization titled “Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation” to spread pro-capitalist rhetoric to American students in public schools. While a robust study of economic systems should be considered vital for a comprehensive education, this onslaught of reactionary, forced pro-corporate curriculum seems to have the agenda of churning out indoctrinated, obedient workers, not free thinking students who have comprehensive knowledge enough to challenge existing economic ideologies in search of more effective ones.
We started off this blog by asking the question of who stands to benefit from the current education system. Seriously, who gets the best deal when poor kids get under resourced education and everyone else gets revisionist history and capitalist propaganda? I think it is within reason to say that the only society in which the masses are designed to be miseducated is one in which you need workers rather than citizens. Perhaps, it is in the best interest of those who own the means of production to gatekeep knowledge and keep masses of people ignorant, underserved and indoctrinated. After all, those who do not know what to question will question nothing, and thus the status quo, no matter how obscenely egregious, will remain unbothered. Maybe there is a benefit, to a few, of a nation full of citizens who do not truly know their own history, or are afraid to question the current way of life. There is money to be made in ignorance: people will sell away years of their money, time, and labor if they believe that such a system is the only way to live. They will quiet their own questions and quell their own ideas if they believe that to be the duty of good citizenship. Few will prosper at the ignorance of millions, and maybe that is the economics of our education.
- Chen, G. (2021). An Overview of the Funding of Public Schools. Public School Review. Retrieved 8 August 2021, from https://www.publicschoolreview.com/blog/an-overview-of-the-funding-of-public-schools.
- The Opportunity Atlas. Opportunityatlas.org. (2021). Retrieved 8 August 2021, from https://opportunityatlas.org/.
- Chetty, R., Friedman, J., Hendren, N., Jones, M., & Porter, S. (2021). Opportunity Insights. Opportunityinsights.org. Retrieved 8 August 2021, from https://opportunityinsights.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/atlas_paper.pdf.
- Tarlton Law Library: Constitution of the Republic of Texas (1836): Introduction. Tarlton.law.utexas.edu. (2021). Retrieved 8 August 2021, from https://tarlton.law.utexas.edu/constitutions/republic-texas-1836.
- 1776 Commission Takes Historic and Scholarly Step to Restore Understanding of the Greatness of the American Founding – The White House. Trumpwhitehouse.archives.gov. (2021). Retrieved 8 August 2021, from https://trumpwhitehouse.archives.gov/briefings-statements/1776-commission-takes-historic-scholarly-step-restore-understanding-greatness-american-founding/.
- Wronski, L. (2021). Axios|Momentive Poll: Capitalism and Socialism. SurveyMonkey. Retrieved 8 August 2021, from https://www.surveymonkey.com/curiosity/axios-capitalism-update/.
- House Bill 5 (2021) – The Florida Senate. Flsenate.gov. (2021). Retrieved 8 August 2021, from https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2021/5.
- Forbes Breaking News. (2021). DeSantis Says Students Must Learn About ‘Evils Of Communism,’ Signs Civic Literacy Reform Law [Image]. Retrieved 8 August 2021, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TxHhxULZKe8.
- Victims of Communism | Keep the flame of liberty alive. Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. (2021). Retrieved 8 August 2021, from https://victimsofcommunism.org/.