by Patrick R. Gibbons – Nevada Policy Research Institute
Defenders of the status quo in public education have long claimed the moral high ground with the assertion that public schools promote social justice. That is, public schools — whatever their problems — provide essential assistance for minority and low-income children.
Today, however, empirical evidence shows that minorities and low-income kids are being harmed by our very expensive and extremely ineffective public school monopolies. Thus, the high ground has been captured by education reformers.
Here in the Silver State, African-American and Hispanic children are two grade levels behind white and Asian students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress fourth-grade reading exam. The situation is identical when comparing the disparity between low-income children and higher-income children. Worse still, the average of all Nevada kids is behind the national average, which in turn is below the average for developed nations.
Graduation rates show even larger disparities. A 2001 report by the Manhattan Institute revealed that just 49 percent of African-American and 40 percent of Hispanic students graduated high school in Nevada. That compares to 65 percent of white students.
Clearly, public schools currently don’t serve any real concept of social justice — however defined.