Friday with Ferrel: Education isn't enough

We need to widen the discussion if we want better results:

“Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, and Wilmington are also expected to be the only three regions with more than half of the new jobs earning $30,000 or more in annual median wages,” say the Commerce analysts. “For remaining regions, most of the new jobs are expected to be at the lower end of the pay scale (less than $30,000).”

I'm jumping around a little bit here, but a good (long) look at economics in the overall child development picture is long overdue. That new jobs prediction above is pretty bleak, but it looks even worse when you consider a substantial number of those jobs will place families directly into the Medicaid coverage gap. In other words, despite all the cheerleading coming from Republicans and their consultants, things are getting much worse for those in the lower-middle. And that has a direct and profound impact on student performance:

“To be clear,’’ Hanauer asserts, “we should do everything we can to improve our public schools. But our education system can’t compensate for the ways our economic system is failing Americans. Even the most thoughtful and well-intentioned school-reform program can’t improve educational outcomes if it ignores the single greatest driver of student achievement: household income.”

“If we really want to give every American child an honest and equal opportunity to succeed,’’ he says, “we must do much more than extend a ladder of opportunity—we must also narrow the distance between the ladder’s rungs. We must invest not only in our children, but in their families and their communities. We must provide high-quality public education, sure, but also high-quality housing, health care, child care, and all the other prerequisites of a secure middle-class life. And most important, if we want to build the sort of prosperous middle-class communities in which great public schools have always thrived, we must pay all our workers, not just software engineers and financiers, a dignified middle-class wage.”

We need to devote a lot more resources to solving NC's wage disparity problem, but expanding Medicaid has to be at the top of our list. Lack of nutrition, physical abuse, and other environmental factors, need to be detected and dealt with as early as possible. But when a child only sees a medical professional at the walk-in clinic to get some antibiotics every couple years, that's not going to happen.

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