The DeHavilland Blog

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

More diversity, less funding in education

Back in January 2006, I highlighted an article by Andy Rotherham (aka The Eduwonk) that laid out a convincing scenario explaining why we might see reduced funding for education in the future. The chief culprits were demographic changes, policy decisions, and political shifts.

New research by Robert Putnam ("
Bowling Alone") backs up Rotherham on how growing demographic differences are going to hurt education funding. An August 5 article in the International Herald Tribune begins:

IT HAS BECOME increasingly popular to speak of racial and ethnic diversity as a civic strength. From multicultural festivals to pronouncements from political leaders, the message is the same: our differences make us stronger.

But a massive new study, based on detailed interviews of nearly 30,000 people across America, has concluded just the opposite. Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam -- famous for "Bowling Alone," his 2000 book on declining civic engagement -- has found that the greater the diversity in a community, the fewer people vote and the less they volunteer, the less they give to charity and work on community projects. In the most diverse communities, neighbors trust one another about half as much as they do in the most homogenous settings. The study, the largest ever on civic engagement in America, found that virtually all measures of civic health are lower in more diverse settings.

"The extent of the effect is shocking," says Scott Page, a University of Michigan political scientist.

Demographic trends show that America's racial mix is changing dramatically, and will continue to do so over the next 50 years. So what happens as previous generations, which are majority white, continue to age? The elderly (the most active voters), who already will be less inclined to support education given their own social needs (social security and medicare), will see a more diverse generation in the schools - and according to Putnam's work, will not be likely to support them.

What's going to happen to school bond referendums? What about the platforms of state and local politicians, including school board members - will they be pro or con on increased education spending?

The writing is on the wall - is anybody ready for a cycle of reduced funding for education, and if so, how are they preparing?


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