Is Education The Best Anti-Poverty Program?

From Larry Cuban:
“Instead of funding the status quo, we only invest in reform — reform that raises student achievement; inspires students to excel in math and science; and turns around failing schools that steal the future of too many young Americans, from rural communities to the inner city. In the 21st century, the best anti-poverty program around is a world- class education.”

Barack Obama, SOTU
I want to parse that last sentence:

“The best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education.” To promote a “world-class education” the President and his Secretary of Education seek to increase prekindergartens and charter schools, reward teachers whose students have done well on tests, turnaround thousands of failing urban schools, and insure that everyone goes to college. That “world-class” education will have to deal with about 40 million poor Americans in 2008. That is 13.2 percent of population–the highest rate since 1997.

Simply citing the numbers skips over the social and economic consequences of poverty in infant mortality, higher rates of diabetes, alcoholism, obesity, anxiety, depression, and, of course, earlier than normal deaths.

Given these figures and the inexorable collateral damages accompanying poverty, then one would think that:

*The best anti-poverty program would help mothers and fathers move from unemployment into worthwhile jobs with sufficient income to support their families.

*The best anti-poverty program would take those adults whose jobs have been lost through outsourcing to other countries or restructured out of existence and re-train them for other jobs.

*The best anti-poverty program would provide tax credits or direct support of child-care, health insurance for working parents, and ample financial aid packages for parents to send their sons and daughters to college.

In short, I would think that is preferable, even efficient, to help adults directly now rather than indirectly later through schooling their children, thereby waiting another generation to lessen poverty...
More at the link.

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