The Dismal Economics of Education

It’s scary: many U.S. cities are proposing subsidized housing—or have already developed it—as a way for teachers to live in the same cities as the children they teach. The only way they can afford to. (Can you imagine writing that sentence about hedge fund managers or orthopedic surgeons or corporate C-suite occupants?) The first reports I became aware of were about notably pricey cities in California. But the situation is metastasizing as the nation’s economic divide worsens: Washington’s current and proposed economic policies are clearly designed to benefit only people who are way above teachers’ pay grade. But that’s not the point. The point is that not so long ago teachers were among the most respected members of the communities in which they taught, but they can’t afford to even live in those communities today. That seems sadly symbolic of a growing disrespect for education itself.

Cost Comparisons

I’ve been checking tuition at the kind of private schools Betsy DeVos and others in the Trump cartel choose for their kids. I’ve also been checking per-pupil state expenditures for public schools in the same states. News flash: vouchers based on per-pupil state aid won’t be enough for lower-income parents to send their kids to the rich folks’ private schools of choice. But the vouchers will reduce the tuition bill for the rich kids’ parents. So what happens to the lower-income kids? They continue going to the increasingly cash-strapped public schools. Or they go to one of the for-profit charters that are springing up … many of which are owned by (and paying dividends to) the very same rich folks who are sending their kids to the expensive private schools, which will continue to be free of those pesky poor kids.

So the vouchers wind up effectively being another tax cut for the rich. And another mechanism to keep the downtrodden down.