Web Only// Features » November 8, 2013

Poverty still lies at the root of the U.S. ‘education crisis.’

BY David Sirota

Google the phrase “education crisis” and you'll be hit with a glut of articles, blog posts and think tank reports claiming the entire American school system is facing an emergency. Much of this agitprop additionally asserts that teachers unions are the primary cause of the alleged problem. Not surprisingly, the fabulists pushing these narratives are often backed by anti-public school conservatives and anti-union plutocrats. But a little-noticed study released last week provides yet more confirmation that neither the “education crisis” meme or the “evil teachers' union” narrative is accurate.

Before looking at that study, consider some of the ways we already know that the dominant storyline about education is, indeed, baseless propaganda.

As I've reported before, we know that American public school students from wealthy districts generate some of the best test scores in the world. This proves that the education system's problems are not universal–the crisis is isolated primarily in the parts of the system that operate in high poverty areas. It also proves that while the structure of the traditional public school system is hardly perfect, it is not the big problem in America’s K-12 education system. If it was the problem, then traditional public schools in rich neighborhoods would not perform as well as they do.