A documentary tour, illustrating the vast differences among inner city, rural and suburban schools in the United States. Bill Moyers moderates a town meeting immediately following the documentary.
BILL MOYERS: Hello, I’m Bill Moyers. The program you’re about to see is about public schools and the difference money makes. You’ll be visiting rural, suburban and city schools in the state of Ohio. We’ve come to Ohio because the schools here mirror American schools everywhere. You’ll be hearing echoes in this program of the debate that’s taking place right now in your own state. First we’ll see the documentary produced for this occasion by Jeffrey Hayden. Then I’ll be back with some leading figures from the field of education, several state legislators, a United States Senator, and some of the students, teachers, administrators and superintendents you met in the documentary. We’re glad you joined us.
CHILDREN: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
STUDENT: When you walk through Vinton County, it’s so drab and just to dirty that it’s hard to feel good about the school and what you’re doing.
TEACHER: The paint’s chipping. The walls are awful. There’s an awful coal smell in the school, because we still use coal in our furnaces.
JONATHAN KOZOL: It’s going to take at least a hundred billion dollars, according to government figures, to bring our public school facilities up to a reasonable standard of safety. Some have estimated as high as two hundred billion dollars.
STUDENT: I don’t like the school because the windows fall out. The ceiling, the floors, everything in our school, is not how it’s supposed to be.
STUDENT: When it’s raining, in the tunnel to go to the gym, there’s puddles. You have to use an umbrella. I mean, that’s very unnecessary that you have to use an umbrella inside of a school building.
STUDENT: Look at school. It look like it’s about to fall down.
STUDENT: It’s just a whole bunch of stuff wrong with this school.
STUDENT: You come, you see and you just don’t want to come back again.
JONATHAN KOZOL: The physical squalor is both a fact, and it’s also a metaphor. It tells the child what we think she’s worth. A child comes into an ugly, filthy building, it gives the child a sense that we don’t value her very much.
WILLIAM PHILLIS: A dilapidated, dingy school building sends the message that education is not important, that children are not important. The disparity between the affluent suburban communities and the poorer rural communities and the inner cities is dramatic.
STUDENT: I love it here. There’s a lot of room for kids to grow, and a lot of room for them to challenge themselves.
STUDENT: I like this school because you’re not just talking and listening. You’re doing a lot of hands-on work.
STUDENT: I’ve had a computer since I was six years old, and so, I mean, just by learning how to use those facilities and I’ve just sort of grown up with it and there’s a lot of potential.
STUDENT: The class I’m most interested in is the theater classes and my Japanese class I like a lot.
STUDENT: I plan to major in math in college, while starting premed in the fall.
STUDENT: I would like to major in biomedical engineering next year.
STUDENT: Either journalism or broadcasting.
STUDENT: I just hope I’m happy wherever I am and whatever I do, so I’m not really worried about it yet.
PAUL HOUSTON: I think Ohio’s a good place to be looking at these issues, because it has large inner city situations, has very affluent suburban situation. It has very small, in many cases poor, rural schools, and so it really has all of the ingredients that you see in other parts of the country.
JONATHAN KOZOL: Schools in America are financed primarily by local property taxes. The low property tax depends on the worth, the value, of local homes and businesses.
WILLIAM PHILLIS: It’s impossible for poor districts in the state of Ohio to provide a high quality education, because the property wealth is not there to tax.
(Children reciting math tables)
WILLIAM PHILLIS: The disparity in per-pupil funding is from in the range of three thousand dollars per pupil at the low end, to over twelve thousand dollars per pupil at the high end, and that great disparity in school funding certainly manifests itself in terms of the disparity in school buildings. Since over half of the buildings were constructed prior to 1940, a number of the buildings still have coal-burning furnaces.
CONNIE FULLEN: We have students with allergies, and the dust from those really bothers the kids. Most of them, when the coal furnaces kick on, then you have kids coughing and sneezing and the runny noses all the time from the coal dust.
JO ADKINS: I’ve tried to cover my register in my classroom with a filter that I purchased myself, and I have to change it often because it fills up, and that does not alleviate the problem. It just slows the soot.
WILLIAM PHILLIS: It would take ten point two billion dollars to bring our school facilities in this state up to the Ohio building code. Now that’s now an education code. That’s just the minimum code of health and safety standards, and a code that would provide for a clean, dry environment for young people in our Ohio school system.
DAN MUMMA: At Flushing Elementary School, as long as the building’s been there, since 1905, the elementary building has been made up of actually three buildings, and there were never restroom facilities in the middle building. Today, that middle building is the K through six elementary building. So our children are at a definite handicap when they need to use restroom facilities, because they actually have to, for example in winter time, get up, put their coat, perhaps their boots on, go out the back door, down under the gymnasium in the cold weather, go to the restroom, and come back.
TEACHER: Line up on the side of the building, guys.
WILLIAM PHILLIS: I’ve been in the buildings that have leaky roofs. I’ve been in the buildings that are not safe. I’ve been in the buildings that have been condemned by the state of Ohio, but reopened on a waiver because there was no other place to send the children.
SARAH GOODALL: When it rained, and when the snow came down, and when the snow melted, the walls would just seep down, water would just come down through the walls and come out on the floor, and there’d be about this much water on the floor about six feet into my room, which was about half the room.
JONATHAN KOZOL: It’s deeply demoralizing for teachers to have to work under these conditions. We’re asking them to work day after day, for an entire lifetime, in building in which no business CEO would agree to work for one hour.
JAMES CRAWFORD: Today we had a teacher that slipped on a puddle of water and fell and hurt his knee. We expect students to learn in this kind of a physical condition, where we as adults would not go to a shopping center where the roof was leaking all the time, or where the elevators didn’t work, or where there was massive amounts of plaster off the walls, huge cockroaches. We wouldn’t begin to go to a place like that.
(Children reading story)
SARAH GOODALL: My students are frustrated, too. They come and they say, “Oh, I can’t believe this water,” and “The ceiling’s falling down,” and they start to make up tunes like “The ceiling’s falling down,” instead of “London Bridge is falling down,” and I just tell them that, you know, we’re a bunch of flowers growing in a garbage can.
DAN MUMMA: It’s not that the people of this district, for example, or any district in our situation, do not want to pay for their schools. They do. They have, I think, in the best interests in heart for their children, just like everyone else. It’s just that they are not able to pay. Our area for many years, in the 1970’s, was a strong coal-mining area, and many of our people also worked in the steel mills in the valley, and so there was a lot of people working in this area. Many, in fact most, of our coal companies in the area had to close down. Consequently, high unemployment and the possibility of passing any new tax dollars was nil.
WILLIAM PHILLIS: A problem that’s inherent in our system of funding schools is that the quality of education is dependent on the local wealth base of the various communities across the state. That wealth has tended to shift. Originally, much of the wealth was concentrated in the large cities. The cities began to lose their wealth to the suburbs, and as the wealth shifts, then the quality of education, likewise, shifts, because the quality of education is dependent on the wealth of the community.
WILLIAM PHILLIS: Now in no way do we want any of the good, excellent programs that are now in place to be compromised. We want those programs to be left in place. We want the state to use its resources to level up the bottom.
LYNDA SIRK: It’s a twenty-seven million dollar complex built on sixty-four acres, with two hundred and thirty thousand square feet. When they planned the building, they took into consideration the Dublin architecture. They have the long, sloping roofs. They used the economics of brick and block, the earth tones, which is a typical Dublin architectural feature. It houses a full academic program, a theater, an auditorium, gymnasiums for both community and student use, computer labs and just a wonderful facility.
STEPHEN ANDERSON: We have a good ratio of commercial to residential revenue coming into our district right now. I mean, you’ll see some of the major computer software providers in our areas. You’ll see other major corporations that have very deep commitments to education located right here in our school district, so we have a wealth of businesses that are willing to support our school.
ANN MURNANE: The environment of this library is such that it makes for a comfortable setting for children so that when they come in to use the library, I don’t think they’re intimidated. I think they feel comfortable and gain confidence in searching for whatever they want or whatever need that they have.
(Teacher reading story)
ANN MURNANE: With the technology that we offer our students, our children learn at a young age how to independently use this library.
CHERYL CARTWRIGHT: The computers get them up and running in the library so much faster, and they’re fun, and it’s exciting for the kids.
TEACHER: I think it’s important to start very young so the children are comfortable with the computer, and learn it as a beginning, just like they began to learn their letters and their letter sounds and their numbers. Kindergarten is really about beginnings, and this is a very important beginning for them because of the importance of technology in their lifetime.
TEACHER: Note and paper is going to be obsolete.
STEPHEN ANDERSON: The equipment, the software that the students have at their disposal, rivals what is found in the area colleges and universities. We offer advanced courses in physics, in chemistry and in biology, which are not normally possible in a traditionally equipped school or traditionally equipped classroom.
PAUL HOUSTON: We have great discrepancies between schools and school districts in the amount of technology they actually have. You have many of the suburban communities where they really use the technology because they have a lot of it. It permeates how they teach. And so it is a tool, in essence, a workplace tool just as it is in the adult world when people get into business. They use technology as a tool. What we’re teaching some children is, they’re in charge of the technology, and we’re teaching other children the technology’s in charge of them.
TEACHER: We only have one computer, because we don’t have enough space in our classroom for the computer’s to be in there.
TEACHER: We have a few computers in our school. They were purchased several years ago, and they are very outdated.
TEACHER: The type of computers I have are what I’ve been able to beg, borrow or scrounge up.
JAMES CRAWFORD: We have, I believe, twelve computers for eighteen hundred students. So a student can go through Withrow for four years and never touch a computer. Something about that is inherently wrong.
STUDENT: I haven’t got a chance to learn to work a computer.
STUDENT: We need more experience with computers.
STUDENT: I’ve never worked on a computer.
TEACHER: They come from economic circumstances where they don’t have scissors. They don’t have pencils. They don’t have glue. They don’t have crayons. I supply all that.
GLORIA PECK: Oh, I would like to have a lot of more materials for them to work with, crayons, pencils, papers, ditto paper for myself, even. I buy a lot of things myself, out of my own pocket.
MICHAEL CHARNEY: The average teacher spends between five hundred and fifteen hundred dollars a year outside of their, outside of what’s provided by the public school system.
STUDENT: We don’t have no spare crayons or anything. We’ve got some manila paper to write on, we got no scissors or paste.
STUDENT: Our books have cuss words written in them, dirty words. They have answers. They have all kinds of stuff. The papers are torn up.
TEACHER: We have dictionaries where there are pages missing, encyclopedias that are so old that they’re not very useful for reference material.
TEACHER: I have a set of encyclopedias that mentions that someday we will send a man to the moon. We’ve been to the moon.
PRINCIPAL: Our library is located in the basement in what was the coal bin, and we had an unusual experience about two weeks ago. The librarian came to get me. She said, “You’re not going to believe this, but we have a cloud, and it’s raining in the library.”
TOM MOONEY: Ohio has a 1.2 billion dollar rainy day fund, a surplus in the state budget that’s been accumulating for several years, supposedly for a rainy day. Well, I’d say it’s already raining for an awful lot of kids in Ohio, both in terms of their education and other needs, health care, housing, nutrition. We serve students here, but we don’t prepare any meals here, because we have no ovens, we have no dishwashing equipment. We’re simply at the mercy of another building to provide all the food and what-have-you. Makes it very difficult to serve hot meals.
JOHN SIMMONS: We have no cafeteria and with this, our students, over 600, are released throughout the school year to go downtown for lunch. We are going into a town of fifteen hundred people, so we are half the population of the town going downtown at once to eat, and certainly, they do not have the means and the facilities downtown to do justice, as far as nutrition, for our students. When they do go to lunch, many times that lunch includes a candy bar, a bottle of pop, which is a mixture of a lot of caffeine and sugar.
STUDENT: We usually go to lunch down at the gas station.
JOHN SIMMONS: Many of our students sometimes end up in a bar. We do not condone it, and we try to control it. The cafeteria, which was in the basement, became inadequate and so it is now made into classrooms. Our lunch starts with preschool at 9:45, and then from 10:30 to 12:30, we have lunches every half hour. We have six to seven classes on each lunch period. Most of our children do get free breakfast and free lunch, and a lot of our children, if they didn’t get the food here to eat, they would be hungry, because they wouldn’t have anything else.
PAUL HOUSTON: When you’re hungry and sick and distressed, it’s very difficult to come in and to learn reading. There’s study after study after study that shows the impact of poverty on learning, all the way from the lack of prenatal care that children have, the low birth weight that many of the poor children have, which then impacts on them for years later, because it impacts their ability to focus, and it impacts their ability to really be prepared to learn.
STUDENT: Sometimes down here you grow up without a father. Never saw, I never saw my father a day in my life. I been out here all my life, never saw my father. I’d love to see him.
BILL MOYERS: The Board statistics show that eighty-five percent of the children in Cleveland come from families with incomes below the poverty level. The statistics also show that the majority of children come from one-parent families.
JONATHAN KOZOL: If the family is less able to provide what families once provided in the home, then that’s all the more reason to give, to give the kids something better in school. Government can’t orchestrate a new world order in family structure. What government can do is guarantee that the public schools we compel every child in America to attend are so good that it will, to a considerable degree, compensate for whatever things are missing in the rest of a child’s life.
PAUL HOUSTON: As long as we allow the system to be built on a single tax system of property tax, we’re going to continue to see communities that have high levels of support, or communities that have very low levels of support. It doesn’t mean that some people don’t love their children as much. You can love your children a lot and not be able to do much for them.
TEACHER: Our children here need a lot of love. They need the security. They need to know somebody cares about them.
SARAH GOODALL: They don’t get the attention that they deserve at home, so they come here and they just need your attention. They need to touch you, hug you, talk to you, you know, feel that they’re important. I don’t understand why people want to cut the extra things that we have in the school system such as phys. ed., and music, especially art. How’s it going, Sean?
SARAH GOODALL: Good. You know what you probably need to do? Make sure you color in all the areas, all the spaces, a little bit darker. I have these kids for forty-five minutes once a week, and I only have them half a year, basically because there’s not enough facilities at this school to have a separate music room and a separate art room.
ROBERT MAURER: Students this age have a great deal of energy to burn off, but we can’t even offer them a year of physical education, because we only have one locker room facility, we have to alternate, boys taking P.E. one semester, girls taking P.E. the other semester. So we go a half year without students having any place to burn the energy. Below the gym floor is the band room.
Now there are times when we have gym taking place, we have band taking place, and also, there are times we have study hall in this area.
CLARAETTE FIELDS: Many of our classes are large, especially our kindergarten, first- and fifth-grade classes. We have four first grade classes, and in each one of those classes, we have thirty, thirty-one children.
TEACHER: It makes a big difference when you have more than twenty-five children in a classroom. It’s just overloaded, and then you have more behavior problems stemming from those children.
TONI STARINSKY: It’s too many. I feel that we have way too many kids in way too many classes. It makes it very difficult for the children to get the attention that they really need.
JULIE SILCOX: I think, at night, when I go home to my house, oh, gosh, where are they going home to, you know, what, are they safe? Did they get home okay? Is there anything I can do for them when they do come back, because I am concerned. I, I don’t know what their home life is like, but I am concerned about them. I don’t have any children of my own, so these are really my own children. You’re fine? Are you sure?
TEACHER: We want them to want to come to school. We want them to feel safe here. We want them to feel loved here, because the more they feel safe and loved, the more they’re going to learn, and the longer they’re going to stay in school.
JAMES CRAWFORD: We no longer have the money we need to give the students the education that they deserve. Society’s made a choice of what is more important, and at least in Cincinnati, society has chosen football stadiums, baseball stadiums, and relocating downtown businesses as more important than the welfare of our children.
STUDENT: You would think if they could afford enough money to buy a new stadium, they could afford some money to help repair our schools, because this doesn’t make no sense. This is no place for education.
GENE TRACY: The figure quoted for building the new stadium, one of the figures, was seven hundred million dollars, which is approximately one hundred million dollars more than it would take to rebuild every school in the Cleveland system.
STUDENT: I think that money should have came to the Cleveland Public School Systems, ‘cause we don’t have nothing. All the buildings are going to be falling down.
STUDENT: They feel like the stadium is more important, or museums are more important than education, but how can you have a beautiful city when you got a bunch of ignorant people?
PAUL HOUSTON: We as a nation don’t want to look at that. We are the richest nation in the world, and we spend more money on cat food than we spend on text books. We spend twice as much money every year on video games as we do on technology in schools.
TOM MOONEY: The idea that money doesn’t count in education is just utterly ridiculous, and I don’t believe that people who are saying it could possibly really believe it. You know, if money doesn’t count, why do affluent people move to the suburbs, create nice little school districts, and vote in taxes so they can spend nine, ten, eleven thousand dollars per pupil, compared to about five that we can spend, you know, on the academic programs in the city schools.
PAUL HOUSTON: Tends to be some of the people who come from the better neighborhoods who say money doesn’t matter, and their kids are not affected by that. Physical education and personal fitness are major themes that we have emphasized for years. This particular facility now enables us to put all of our dreams and ideas and goals and objectives about personal fitness to every-day operation. There are so many lessons of life to be learned. We learn how to cooperate with people. We learn teamwork.
They learn how to be self-sufficient. They gain confidence in their own abilities.
FREDY ARNOLD: We’ve had children come in who were deathly afraid of the water, in a matter of just two or three sessions, they get over that fear very quickly and the smile on their face, of their accomplishment is just, you know, it’s fantastic. They, they do something that they thought they couldn’t do. They come in and say, “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t,” and then all of a sudden, they can, and they’re just so happy that they can do it, it’s amazing. You learn something here and then it just makes everything else a little bit easier down the road.
STUDENT: I really like it. I think it’s really interesting, especially in science.
STUDENT: I like this school ‘cause it’s like new and there’s all kinds of nice teachers here.
STUDENT: I think it’s cool.
JACK KINNEVAN: If you watch the preschool kids, they line up and they’re excited. They come to school, and somewhere along the way, there is a loss in that enthusiasm. Where a child should be growing and blooming and perhaps providing a harvest, there’s a closing in and a dying.
CHILD: I quit in the ninth grade in high school.
CHILD: I went to eighth and dropped out.
CHILD: If you feel that your school is crumbling before your eyes, you’re going to say, I don’t need the school, so what’s the point of being here?
MICHAEL CHARNEY: What we expect from students, which is, it takes four years to finish high school, is not happening in many places across this country, and particularly in those states and cities that require an exit test for graduation, because the requirements have been put in, but the building blocks for success have not really been put in, because the answer always is, we don’t have enough money.
TONI STARINSKY: They haven’t learned from elementary school when they had thirty kids in a class, so by the time they get to high school, they don’t have a foundation to build on. They know they’re not going to college. They have no role models. There’s really no point, in their minds, in getting an education.
PAUL HOUSTON: I don’t think there’s an educator in America that wouldn’t stand up and say, poor kids have more problems when they come to school than kids who come from homes where they’re not poor. I mean, it’s, it’s just, it’s so basic as to be, it’s ridiculous that I have to repeat it, and yet, somehow, as a country we want to come with all these other things and say, well, you know, it’s international test scores, or let’s have another achievement test, and that’ll make the schools better, or let’s do this, you know, let’s raise the standards. Well, you know, it’s great to tell kids to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, but you’d better put boots on them first.
TEACHER: Is there anybody that has any questions? Do the very best you can. You are not allowed to go to any other part of the test. We are only on the reading part. You have twenty-five minutes. You may begin.
JONATHAN KOZOL: When children go to school in America, they don’t say the pledge of allegiance to the town of Columbus, Ohio, or Nashua, New Hampshire. They say a pledge of allegiance to the United States of America. So, in a sense, we make it clear that we are sending them to school to learn to be Americans. But we are educating them, not as Americans, but as residents of rich or poor school districts. So we’re going to continue to educate the poorest kids in rural Mississippi at two thousand dollars a year, poorest kids in Ohio at four thousand a year, poorest kids in New York City at seven thousand a year, and the richest kids at sixteen, eighteen, twenty thousand a year, but they’re all going to take the same exams.
PAUL HOUSTON: The single largest variable that predicts SAT scores is family income, so if you want higher SAT scores, you need to get your kids born into wealthier families, apparently, in terms of how our society is structured. So we have to find ways to break that cycle and confound that, because otherwise, we’re just destined to keep repeating, generation after generation, the same mistakes and problems that we currently have.
WILLIAM PHILLIS: Unfortunately, many of the young people in the impoverished areas have inferior educational programming because the schools don’t have the resources to provide better educational programming. As a result of that, the young people do not do well on tests, and often don’t have an opportunity then to graduate and thus, are really consigned to a life of poverty. Well, some of the rural areas of the state have, in fact, gotten an influx of additional local resources through industrial or power plant bases. For example, Perry Local District in Lake County, had the addition of a nuclear plant, and the resources have made a tremendous difference in the facilities, and consequently, the student outcomes.
ROBERT GEISLER: Nineteen years ago, Perry High School was a cinderblock building with minimal number of classrooms and very little equipment.
SCOTT HOWARD: Perry has been blessed to have the tax receipts from the Perry Nuclear Power Plant, and that has given us an opportunity to really showcase, in public education, what can be done with what I consider to be average Midwest children, and how they can achieve in the conditions that I call ideal.
ROBERT GEISLER: Since moving into these facilities, there’s been a renewed excitement and high energy level expressed by both the teachers and the students.
SCOTT HOWARD: The statewide proficiency test results in Perry are among the highest in the state.
STUDENT: We should probably note what’s happening going up the tube here, and what observations we see in here.
ROBERT GEISLER: Over eighty percent of our students go on to post-secondary education immediately upon graduating from high school. The daily attendance rate for students is over ninety-six percent. The graduation rate for our students is ninety-seven percent.
TEACHER: Three simple equations. These are the three things that you’ll have in the air bag, okay?
SCOTT HOWARD: Every child in America deserves to have this type of an educational opportunity, particularly knowing that these children are going to have to compete in a global economy, and that the type of educational environment that we provide in Perry is going to be absolutely essential to compete in that market for the high-paying jobs.
JONATHAN KOZOL: In earlier decades, the people whom we chose not to educate, or not to educate well, could still get jobs. There were plenty of jobs around for people who were simply willing to use their arms and their backs, and their physical strength. Those jobs don’t exist anymore.
STEVEN VANCE: Who has got a supervised agricultural experience already planned? Hunter.
HUNTER: I have a sawmill job during the summer.
STEVEN VANCE: Sawmill, working at the sawmill. That’s an excellent one. We have vocational education students here that are trying to gain very important skills so that they can be employable. Some of our equipment in this shop go back to the forties. Our drill press, for an example, was donated to our high school, 1945, after World War II. We’ve been using it now for the last forty-some years, and I think we need to get more modern if our students are going to be competitive in 1995 and beyond.
CHILD: Well, since I graduated from high school, I’ve been just walking the streets with my friends.
CHILD: I’ve been just trying to find a job, since I got out.
CHILD: I’d like to become a graphic artist and move to California.
CHILD: I’d like to move to Columbus, because out in Columbus, they’re doing a lot of hiring up there for mechanics.
WILLIAM PHILLIS: When these young people aren’t able to compete, they often can’t go to higher education, so it’s a cycle, beginning with poverty, [UNINTEL] pass the tests, not able to break the cycle of poverty.
WREATHEL MURPHY: He went to the eleventh grade, he turned eighteen, and he dropped out. He still can’t read. My son can’t read. So therefore, he doesn’t have a big chance at jobs, either. He’s been, uh, for the past four months, applications, applications, applications. It’s, it’s pitiful, the way they, they just don’t care.
ARTHUR LAWSON: Schools need to be more than just a place that you tell the child, he comes to school to read the book, to compute in mathematics. Some of the youngsters are saved by simply being able to join clubs and organizations.
MICHAEL KULCSAR: There are no extracurricular activities except for track, and the only reason there’s track this year is because the mayor had his arm twisted and released some funds.
STUDENT: They’ve taken our sports away, sports we had four years ago, students don’t even know about now. They just not encouraging us or giving us a reason to come to school.
JONATHAN KOZOL: One of the appeasing notions in this society is that the poor don’t know what they’re missing, so these kids in a poor rural school district or in the south side of Chicago, or in a poor section of Columbus or Cleveland, don’t know what it’s like out in the suburbs, so why would they be mad? That’s a very naive, misimpression. The kids in the inner city sometimes compete in sports against the suburban schools. They leave their school and a half hour later they’re in this beautiful, air-conditioned gymnasium. They walk through the school library and see two hundred brand-new IBM computers. We made these schools beautiful because we want kids to know that we value them. The inevitable corollary is the message that kids get at collapsing, ugly, over-crowded schools in our big cities, or out in the rural slums, they walk in, they get the message very quickly, in the eyes of this society, you don’t matter all that much. We don’t really expect that much of you, so we’re not going to waste too much money on you.
STUDENT: Our football field, it’s in terrible shape. We re-sodded it in the spring, and there’s no grass on it.
STUDENT: Our coaches usually don’t stick around because they have not been here to teach us, and we don’t have a very successful season, so they leave, and we get new coaches, and since they don’t have a successful season, they just keep leaving.
STUDENT: Where I was from, the teams in the school have a lot of respect for itself, and the locker rooms were always clean and well maintained. No lockers were falling apart or anything, and there was always something for the kids to do after school other than just sports. There’s a lot more clubs and things.
STUDENT: There’s not, nothing else to do in this town, besides football games, if you’re interested in sports. There’s three girls in my class pregnant already, and probably about six, in my whole senior class, already have babies.
Young woman: I stopped going because I was pregnant. I had, uh, my daughter, and at the time I stopped going I was like in the tenth grade.
YOUNG WOMAN: Well, I got pregnant. I just stopped, um, last year.
YOUNG WOMAN: It’s, it’s hard. It’s hard taking care of a baby when you’re only fifteen, fourteen years old. Your mother and father is not always there like I had mine.
JONATHAN KOZOL: No legislature can prevent fifteen-year-olds from having babies if they make that bad decision. The legislatures could provide a thirteen-year course of schooling that was so terrific that by the time a child was twelve, fourteen, sixteen, she would have her eyes set on a wonderful college career and the possibility of being a doctor some day and, and, and wouldn’t allow herself to get side-tracked into a, into having children before she’s ready to be a mother.
JAMES CRAWFORD: A lot of it is, we’re not simply giving the students anything that has any interest to them at all. Now I’m not saying we have to entertain students. I think that’s wrong. But we have to give students things that relate to their daily lives.
MICHAEL CHARNEY: Curriculum isn’t just learning out of a textbook. Curriculum is those kind of community involved life experiences that happen from the time a child wakes up in the morning until the time they go to bed.
SCOTT HOWARD: Perry has had a long-standing philosophy that extracurricular activities play an integral part of the school system and community life.
ROBERT GEISLER: The idea behind the Community Fitness Center underscores the idea of community. That building was constructed so that all persons in Perry can make use of it year around. It has a field house, an aerobics room and a workout room, and circuit training and swimming pool and competition gymnasium, an indoor track, just to name some of the special features.
STUDENT: I’m a varsity football player and I am on the varsity track team. I’m not only into athletics. I’m also on Student Council and a member of the Junior Council on World Affairs. I write for the school paper, and I’ve seen how other schools operate in these similar activities and it just seems like Beachwood is a step ahead of them.
STUDENT: I played tennis up until this year. I play varsity softball and varsity soccer this year.
ROBERT GEISLER: We really feel that our district is a fine arts district, and so our music and art program, we value it. We put a lot of effort and time and money into that program, and so as you walk through the building, you’ll see art work displayed prominently, because we’re proud of what the students do.
We have approximately 85% of the children in our school district participating in some form of extracurricular activity, and we think that is very, very important to the total program of education for the children.
JONATHAN KOZOL: If extracurricular activity is good for the daughter of a president or the son of a United States Senator, or the children of a surgeon or a lawyer who lives out in beautiful elegant Great Neck, Long Island, outside New York, then those things are good for the poorest child of the poorest Puerto Rican woman in the South Bronx, and to deny it to the second child and grant it in abundance to the first is just an atrocity, an utter betrayal of everything this country’s supposed to stand for. In fact, it makes you wonder whether America really likes children when we do this. You have to wonder sometimes. I mean, obviously we like our own children, but do we like other people’s children?
KENNETH ROOT: If the schools can do a little more of a controlled job and give the kids something to do and something to look forward to, either while they’re in school or after school, if they know they’re doing the right thing, it’s going to make a big difference. And it’s going to make the job a whole lot easier for us and anybody else the kids might deal with.
WILLIAM PHILLIS: The young people who are engaged in extracurricular activities, who are successfully operating in the school system, don’t tend to get into trouble. The young people who are successful in public education tend not to revert to the welfare system or to the prison system. In the Cleveland city schools, many of the schools have had to cut their, all of their extracurricular activities. Now an exception to that is the Cleveland School for the Arts. Those young people tend to be successful. They tend then to go on to higher education.
EUGENIA STRAUSS: We use the arts, as we call it, as a healing process for these kids. Because these kids, when they come to the school, you have no idea what they have gone through. I mean, every child in this building has a story, and stories that no kid should have to go through.
DIANNA RICHARDSON: They really know that this is a special place, because they can come to school here. It’s safe. We don’t have gang violence. We don’t have guns. We don’t have, you know, those kind of problems at all. And I think that that’s really important. I think it makes them look at education in a different way, because they have to stay here in order to survive, in some cases.
TONI STARINSKY: We help kids to get in touch with their senses. And by helping kids to get in touch with their senses, we’ll make them better people. They’ll be more aware of how other people feel, how other people think, how other people hear, what music is, and what makes us human. What really makes us human is our senses and the way we use them.
DIANNA RICHARDSON: The academics are affected by the students playing in the orchestra and their discipline, because it teaches them to be responsible in all areas of life, that they have to study really hard. They know what it’s like. They have the, the patience to sit there and practice a line, and those things are, you know, continue over into their academics.
STUDENT: Well, the orchestra itself is a great little orchestra, but I think a lot of the musical talent is getting dwindled away by the small room. I have the largest instrument, and I can barely fit in the room sometimes, either sitting out in the hall or propped up against the door, is usually where I spend the forty-five minutes we have to play. Now that the school’s declined, the walls are pretty much caving in. It’s just everyone’s lost their hope and dreams towards their major.
EUGENIA STRAUSS: Each year, we have to raise more and more moneys, because they cut more and more money. So we have to raise approximately half a million dollars to sustain the programming in this school.
(Jazz group rehearsing)
EUGENIA STRAUSS: The cost of instituting a art program in the school is in comparison to what we have to pay to help these kids when they drop out of schools and they have no jobs, and they end up in prison, you know, the cost to society, to all of us, is enormous.
MICHAEL CHARNEY: I think that the increased youth violence is directly related to the lack of hope that these children have in their own lives.
STUDENT: Watch out for whoever or whatever, ‘cause don’t nobody care about you but yourself and probably your friends, if you got any.
STUDENT: People just start fights over stuff, stupid stuff like they over there like girls talking to your boyfriend or something like that. I mean, stuff that don’t even make sense.
PAUL HOUSTON: No question about it, that many of our schools are unsafe. But people don’t like to talk about the fact we have a violent society. We have between three and four thousand kids killed with hand guns each year in this country. A handful of them are killed in school. So again, for many of our children, school’s the safest place they’re going to be.
STUDENT: Couple of houses down, we have drug dealers and like every house that get boarded up, the drug dealers go in, take over that house, and we have lot like young people, younger people live on our street and elderly people live on our street, and at night they be playing their real loud music, and, uh, they don’t give nobody too much respect, though.
WOMAN: See this hole right here?
POLICE OFFICER: Mmm-hmmm.
WOMAN: They broke it right here.
POLICE OFFICER: And these are kids, uh, in the neighborhood. They come in here and they use, use this place to do their crack.
WOMAN: Yep. Down in the basement, too.
POLICE OFFICER: Yep.
STUDENT: It’s always somebody killing somebody. It ain’t on my porch. It’s like up the street, up by St. Leger’s and all that, by Kentucky Fried Chicken. It, most of the people up there be fighting, or if they ain’t fighting, somebody from another, and they do drive-by’s and all that.
POLICE OFFICER: It’s, uh, primarily a, a, low-income project. Uh, it’s a large drug activity, a lot of family trouble, domestic kind of thing, pretty much all day long.
CHILD: They be dealing drugs everywhere on these corners and they need to stop it.
POLICE OFFICER: Yeah.
CHILD: There be a lot of shooting.
POLICE OFFICER: Primarily, the kids are good, and they’re really, they’re only going to do what they’re taught, so, but primarily they, they try real hard to be good kids, and do what they’re supposed to do.
POLICE OFFICER: Excellent.
POLICE OFFICER: It seems to be somewhere around the age of 12 or 13 or so, then they kind of turn away from running up to your car and saying, “Hi, how you doing?” They kind of turn the other way. You pull up and they turn around and walk the other direction.
CHILD: Me and my cousins and friends used to rob people. The way we stole a car is, we use a screwdriver and we break the, um, bottom thing off and it’s like a little pin in there, and we pull it and the car starts up.
Woman: My son, I’d like him to go ahead on, further his education. I want all of ‘em to do good in their education and stuff, you know. Just be whatever they wanna grow up to be.
CHILD: I got caught by the police and then I went to jail, and I was there for a long time. And then, uh, I, I went to the orphanage.
Woman: I just was experimenting around in drugs and alcohol and it caused me some problems with my family.
Woman: I didn’t ever pick up my diploma or nothing. I just, I missed that last year, and I just never went back.
JONATHAN KOZOL: The truth of the matter is, that if vast numbers of inner city kids did not drop out of school, we wouldn’t have the money to educate them anyway. Uh, in a sense, uh, if class size is as low as thirty-five in some schools, it’s because another fifteen kids gave up and quit. There is something more than simply unkind or undemocratic at stake in this. It suggests simply writing off the lives of a certain category of human being and saying they don’t matter, they don’t count. I don’t necessarily want them to die, but, uh, I want them to be far away from where I lead my life so I don’t need to see them weep.
TONI STARINSKY: In order to survive in the lowest part of society, the part that everybody turns their head and nobody looks at, you can’t see, because if you saw what was around you, as a human, it would kill you, so they begin to tune down their senses, and desensitize themselves. Once you have no senses, crime is very easy, because you don’t feel anybody else’s pain.
STUDENT: Everybody want to blame us for all the violence that’s going on because we ain’t no had no school training, they don’t make us want to have no school training.
Young man: I mean, I ain’t got no high school diploma, but therefore, they’re knock me down. They don’t even want you at McDonald’s no more. But how you gonna survive, say if you got two kids and you get paid four thirty-five, you know what I’m sayin’, all you gettin’ is two ten every two weeks, how you gonna pay for the kids and your rent?
CHILD: I can’t call ‘em bad, because I don’t know where they live, and I don’t know where they comin’ from, but the stuff they do.
CHILD: I don’t know if I’ll make it to next year, the way them polices and stuff be coming through here. The boys shoot back at the police now, they so fed up with it.
PAUL MOONEY: The prison population has been exploding. The state budget, uh, percentage going to education’s been falling. Where’s the money going? It’s going to build more and more prisons.
JONATHAN KOZOL: What are we going to do? How many more prisons can we build? And can we afford to keep building prisons? Prison construction is the number one growth industry in New York state. Nationally, about twenty-three thousand black men graduated from college five years ago, but two point three million black men and juveniles passed through the correctional system in the same year. The moral implications of this are devastating for our society, but the financial implications are, are, if possible, even more extraordinary. I mean, what are we doing? Why spend sixty thousand dollars a year to keep a, a black guy in prison in New York and six thousand to miseducate him when he’s a child? Does that make sense to anybody?
JAMES CRAWFORD: If we gave them a good education, and gave them facilities that they would want to come to and a chance to learn, the drop-out rate would be lower, the juvenile crime rate would go down, and we’d actually end up saving money.
PAUL HOUSTON: They’re not those kids and my kids. They’re our children, because we as a society cannot build the walls high enough or thick enough to separate our children from someone else’s children. And the long-term future of this country is going to be bound up with our ability to find ways to come together and work together and do something for our children.
JONATHAN KOZOL: There’s so many things that you can atone for later on, but there’s no way to atone for the theft of childhood. No one can return your fifth grade year to you once it’s gone. It’s gone forever. It hurts, uh, when you love children, and when you see that potential. Remember that child that was born our joyous joy, becomes our saddest sad? Why is it that we have lost this child? It’s a burning question. It’s a question that hurts. But it’s a question I hope that all of us will take to heart and then do something about it.
NARRATOR: From the stage of the Dublin Coffman Performing Arts Center in Dublin, Ohio, a town meeting of the air with Bill Moyers.
BILL MOYERS: …with us and thanks to all of you on the panel. Senator Moseley-Braun, you provoked a study by the General Accounting Office that issued its report recently, addressing the state of America’s schools. What did it say?
SENATOR CAROL MOSELEY-BRAUN: It verified Jonathan Kozol’s warning to us that we are failing our children and indeed our country by allowing our schools to deteriorate and, uh, the GAO reported on a hundred and twelve billion dollars’ worth of minimal unmet need. It’s across America, and it is in both urban and rural and suburban communities.
BILL MOYERS: Representative Fox, the, uh, GAO report was very hard on the state of Ohio. It said that you have allowed your schools in this state to deteriorate until physically many of them are the worst in the country. Now you’re the Chairman of the Education Committee, is that right, in the House? The state…
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: The last two years.
BILL MOYERS: The last two, oh, you’re not going to take respons-…
BILL MOYERS: Oh, shoot. I thought we had the culprit.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: You know, we’re having a heck of a time cleaning up after those Democrats, you know that.
BILL MOYERS: Well, we’ll get you a [UNINTEL] But how is it that the great state of Ohio can let that happen to its schools?
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: As the film pointed out, uh, funding our schools is a partnership between the local community and the state and the federal government has not played a role in the, the funding of infrastructure, but in Ohio, you depend upon, as most states do, local initiatives and property taxes that are taken to the voters. One of the things that the film indicated was that, you know, they had problems getting computers. We’re addressing that in Ohio, and I think the record should reflect that. We’ve invested, uh, five hundred million dollars that’s now in the pipeline going to Ohio schools to guarantee every child, in kindergarten through fourth grade in Ohio, will have access to a computer. They’ll get the software, the teacher training, and so forth.
BILL MOYERS: I read in the paper just this week that Ohio has spent one hundred and thirty-six million dollars in tax money last year for private schools, while some public schools were slipping into bankruptcy. How does that happen? What’s the rationale for that?
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: Well, frankly, I, I think that if, if I had my way, I would, uh, I would put more money in the hands of parents to choose the school. I think this film, and this documentary that points out the terrible conditions that every child goes to school, I, I think if my own children, if my little daughter who’s in the sixth grade, or my son, Ryan, in the ninth grade, came home to me and described to me the conditions that were displayed in this film, I would change that. I…
BILL MOYERS: How would you change it?
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: As a parent, I have, I’m fortunate, just as the parents in this district are fortunate. My children are not trapped in the public schools. I exercise choice. If you have wealth in America, you have choice, and this district exemplifies that. Now the ones in Cleveland, the children there, they don’t have choice. They’re prisoners. And that’s why the Cleveland Scholarship Program that the governor, uh, and I worked on, and the Republican caucus in the House, has freed up almost two thousand children in the school system in Cleveland, all in poverty, to go out and escape that system, and I think that’s a powerful tonic to this problem.
BILL MOYERS: Michael Charney, whom we saw in the film, is waving his hand back here. I, uh, I, you’re a teacher where, Mr.…
MICHAEL CHARNEY: Uh, I teach seventh grade in the city school system of Cleveland.
BILL MOYERS: And you wanted to say?
MICHAEL CHARNEY: I wanted to say that I don’t have textbooks to teach my seventh grade based on the state curriculum frameworks, and one of the reasons is the policies that say we’re going to save two thousand students and ignore the seventy-two thousand students in the Cleveland schools.
(last drowned out by applause)
MICHAEL CHARNEY: I think it’s disingenuous to talk about the Cleveland voters not voting for a school levy when, in fact, as we speak today, the percentage of family income going for property taxes in the city of Cleveland is in the top ten out of the over six hundred school districts. The problem is incredible poverty, not unwillingness to support schools.
BILL MOYERS: Mr. Gardner? Step up to the line now. What do you do to close the gap financially?
SENATOR CAROL MOSELEY-BRAUN: Par-, par-, particularly in this global economy, it is more and more important that we prepare the American work force as a matter of our national defense, if you will. That means changing the paradigm so that there is a partnership between state, federal and local, so that everybody chips in, so there’s more activity by the federal government to provide support for local efforts to have schools across the board in whatever community, uh, without regard to wealth. Then we can begin to turn this around and really, uh, affect some change in this, in this issue.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: What, what you’re trying to say, f-, you know, I represent a very conservative area, uh, not a wealthy area. The folks in Hamilton, uh, their incomes are low. Seventy percent of the r-, revenue that goes to the Cleveland school system is, is brought there by the state. You’re asking families in my community to say, we need to ship more money up to those folks where they don’t make that local effort. And there’s, there’s an equity and fairness argument that I think falls the other way.
MICHAEL CASSERLY: Let me take issue with just one, uh, uh, statement here, and that is, typically people in poor communities and in inner cities spend more of their wealth on education and spend more of their, uh, local, uh, tax money on public education than any other community in the nation. Poor people care about education and spend their tax money on education. They try enormously hard and are enormously dedicated. It is very…
BILL MOYERS: Mister Phillis, you, you’ve been trying to get in there.
WILLIAM PHILLIS: Well, in Ohio, uh, the state, uh, is responsible for education. The constitution is very clear. It says that the general assembly shall make such provisions by taxation as will secure a thorough and efficient system of common schools throughout the state. The buck stops with the state. The quality of education in Ohio should depend on the wealth of the state of Ohio, not the wealth of Cleveland, or not the wealth of some other district across the state.
BILL MOYERS: Redistribute taxes. Is that what you’re saying?
WILLIAM PHILLIS: The, the coalition that I represent, uh, d-, does not advocate taking the property tax from one district and transferring it to another district. We believe that we must level up from the bottom. We can afford to, and it’s a state responsibility.
BILL MOYERS: I, I really want to ask all of you to be concrete. I agree with that. I think everybody agrees with that. Where’s the money coming from?
WILLIAM PHILLIS: The same place that we get the money to fund a new supermax prison at Youngstown, Ohio, at sixty-five million dollars. The same place that we get to money to, to subsidize private stadiums. The same place that we get money to, uh, uh, deal with the prison population. The same place that we get money for the parks and for the other services of the state government.
RANDALL GARDNER:: If I could, I, you know, I think the perception out there is that we haven’t done anything to begin addressing these problems with respect to equity and building assistance, and that’s simply not the fact in Ohio. Uh, this current budget that we’re in, there was one point one billion additional dollars for Ohio schools that was in this budget, uh, from the previous two-year budget.
Bill Moyers; From the general appropriation of the state.
RANDALL GARDNER:: Absolutely. And we provided, over the last four years, three hundred and twenty-five million dollars in additional equity funds to Ohio schools to help address some of these concerns. We want to do more, but we also have a responsibility and obligation to also require some local investment. We truly believe that local schools, local tax payers and parents and citizens, ought to have the freedom to invest locally also in their schools. We’re not going to solve every problem at the state level. We also need the parents and we need local communities to be involved.
BILL MOYERS: Senator Espy.
SEN. BEN ESPY: In nineteen ninety, the State Board of Education commissioned a study which said Ohio had a ten point three billion dollar problem with our buildings. Since nineteen ninety, the state legislature, through the governor’s office, has only appropriated three hundred and fifteen million dollars. The state of Ohio has failed public education, and matter of fact, there’s evidence that they’ve abandoned public education in Ohio. We’ve increased private funding for private education. We’re now putting in programs to drain more money from public education, like vouchers and charter schools. We’re taking more of our money, putting it in religious schools. We’re putting it in private schools, at the expense of all the children you saw in the documentary.
BILL MOYERS: Tom Mooney was, uh, in the documentary, and…
BILL MOYERS: …he’s been, he’s been wanting in over here.
TOM MOONEY: Yeah, I’d like to concrete, uh, like you asked a minute ago, Bill, and, and talk about where the money comes from and where it goes. And where, where the state could get more resources to create more equity. And we have a district in Cincinnati. It’s a great school district, that has a major industrial plant, happens to be General Electric, and major regional shopping malls, and all the property taxes paid by those, uh, industries and enterprises go to that one school district, but the work force for that General Electric plant comes from all over the region. The shoppers for that m-, major mall come from all over the region. Now why in the world would they all, all go to, how does that belong to that one school district? So the whole system makes no sense, and frankly, I think our elected officials simply, uh, I shouldn’t, hadn’t have to tell them to read the state constitution, but they are ignoring it. They are playing make-believe when they say that education is a local matter. Since eighteen fifty-three, the constitution in this state has said, it’s a state responsibility. Our constitution in this state says that there’s supposed to be a thorough and efficient statewide system, not, you know, well, it depends on if local voters feel like it or can afford it.
BILL MOYERS: Well, we’ve got somebody who’s willing to say, here’s where the money must come from.
JONATHAN KOZOL: That’s the point. The point is that all of these local efforts to add a little bit more state aid one year, and then they cut it back the next, or add a little bit of extra money to help with building, all those efforts are attempts to adorn and decorate a basically flawed, inequitable system. The, the idea of financing local schools primarily on the basis of local wealth is abhorrent from any basic American point of view about fair play, because it guarantees that the family that can afford to buy a million-dollar home in an exclusive suburb automatically is able to buy, essentially, a million-dollar education for their child, and in that way, rig the game of competition, uh, for the rest of that child’s life. If money is good for the family that can live in an exclusive suburb, then it’s good for the poorest family in Cincinnati, and it, what I’m, if what I’m saying sounds like some type of redistribution, that’s exactly right. That’s what it is. There’s no other way to do it.
JONATHAN KOZOL: There’s no other, there’s no other ethical way to do it so long, unless, unless we really believe that a child born in Cincinnati is no more, and no less, than a citizen of Cincinnati, and that a child born in Great Neck, Long Island is a citizen of Great Neck, but we know that’s not true. All these children are American children, and they ought to be treated with the dignity that we give to our own children.
BILL MOYERS: David Gergen, you’ve been trying to get in over here.
BILL MOYERS: David Gergen, David Gergen is not from Ohio, but he brings, uh, a national perspective to Ohio. What do you say about this?
DAVID GERGEN: Uh, I think as a national family, we have a responsibility to every child in this country to insure that child can go to a school where the roof is not falling down, where you don’t have to put an umbrella up to, to prevent yourself from being rained on in a library, and you’ve got an encyclopedia that says we’ve already been to the moon. Uh, and, and, in fact, primarily a local and state responsibility, but I also think that we as a society have a responsibility, and I, I, I for one believe that if we, under, under President Eisenhower we could develop an inter-, interstate highway system, and put money into roads across the country, that we as a, as a nation, should be willing to put money into infrastructure in schools. Uh, it seems to me that’s a basic right. But I have to add this one perspective, because I think taxpayers have a right to expect something in return. The money is not being as effectively spent as it should be. There’s a growing amount of money going to administrative overhead. This gentleman should have textbooks and we should not being putting it into administrative overhead. That’s layering the bureaucracy in these school systems, layer upon layer, and they ought, we ought to put the money into textbooks and not into the bureaucracy.
BILL MOYERS: Yes. Paul Houston?
PAUL HOUSTON: Speaking for the administrative layer, uh, …
BILL MOYERS: Paul Houston represents, uh, all the administrators of this country.
PAUL HOUSTON: I mean, the fact is that Mister Gergen, uh, in the gross way may be making a valid point, but, but, uh, I think you have to look at the facts a little more closely. Uh, in terms of administration overhead in this country, we spend about four percent of school budgets on administration. We, in fact, do spend a tremendous portion of our budget on non-classroom teaching. What does that money go for? It goes for things like electricity, transportation. It goes for nurses. It goes for filling in the voids, unfortunately, that have been created by a society that’s changed dramatically over the last thirty or forty years. In fact, I would put the size of the administration up against almost any other private sector, uh, and certainly up against state, uh, government.
BILL MOYERS: I think we owe it to our audience at home and here to try to, even if we don’t agree, to at least put on the table some possibilities for increasing, uh, uh, where do we get the tax funds?
SENATOR CAROL MOSELEY-BRAUN: We have to come together to work on cooperative solutions, in which both, in which the federal government does that which it can do best, the state governments do better, state governments have been declining in support of education across the board. The GAO documented that. Across this country, state support has been going down, and so we need to come up with some approaches and say let’s cooperate, give the locals a role that they can play best, the states can step up to the plate and take primary responsibility, but the federal government has a role also.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: The, the idea that public goods can only be delivered through a public government-run system is alien to every other segment of our, uh, there are other examples. Now.
BILL MOYERS: That’s why, that’s why you support vouchers, so that students can go to private schools. That’s why you would support, uh, other measures that would…
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: And that…
BILL MOYERS: Not you personally, but a politician.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: Exac-, and that, but that doesn’t mean you abandon the public purpose.
BILL MOYERS: But that’s what is happening, though, realistically, Mister Fox. Isn’t it? I mean…
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: No.
BILL MOYERS: …I know that the state legislation, I’m not saying you were in it at that time, but the state legislature in Ohio a few years ago gave large tax breaks to, write-offs, to businesses, without compensating the school districts for the loss of that income from those property taxes.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: We, no…
BILL MOYERS: That’s a fact. I didn’t make that, I just made it as a fa-, a statement of fact.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: The, the state legislature didn’t do that. We gave to local governments the authority…
BILL MOYERS: Oh.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: …to provide tax abatement, which is, in the scheme of things, an infinitesimally small component. Now, if they had to do that…
BILL MOYERS: I know, but the point is, if you take money for this, somewhere it has to be found for that.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: Well, but let me, this is what the other thing I wanted to do, I wanted to go to Mr. Kozol’s point, and I, I agree with you. The property tax is absolutely abominable. But if we said, well, let’s go to the income tax, that would be even more disequalizing. Now let me also put this in perspective. To do what Perry School District did, in the film, the one with the hundred million dollar campus, for us to bring the whole system up to that would cost the state of Ohio one hundred billion dollars to provide every child with the Perry County Campus, fifty thousand dollars per child.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (distant) Pay it.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: To bring us up to the per-pupil spending of Perry County…
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (distant) Pay it.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: …would cost us, the taxpayers, eighteen billion dollars.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (distant) Pay it.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: That’s four thousand dollars for every…
BILL MOYERS: Someone is saying, s-, Mister Fox, pay it. What’s the obstacle to paying it?
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: Well, to put it in perspective, to, to so-call pay it, would cost every man, woman and child in Ohio an additional four thousand dollars a year in taxes, the average family of four, to, to pay for that, the Perry County level of quality.
JONATHAN KOZOL: That might be a good price to pay for democracy.
BILL MOYERS: Mister Rodriguez wants to get in, Mister Rodriguez, I must say, Mister Rodriguez filed the first class action suit in the country in nineteen sixty-eight from his district in Texas. It went all the way to the Supreme Court, failed on a five to four basis. He went back to the court, and, uh, to the state courts, and won a victory. But you were going to say?
DEMETRIO RODRIGUEZ: I think that, uh, we, we should supplement all these programs, state programs and what the gentleman’s talking about, with a, with a plan in the federal level, and, uh, which is, uh, in nineteen forty-six, we came out with a Marshall plan to, to help Japan and Germany. And I think we should come out with a Marshall plan to, to help all the schools in, in the nation.
BILL MOYERS: Would you be willing to pay four thousand dollars a year more in your own taxes to contribute to that Marshall plan?
DEMETRIO RODRIGUEZ: I, I think that it could be, uh, uh, arranged where, where we can, uh, cut from these perks from these pol-, politicians and we could cut it…
BILL MOYERS: Let’s say, let’s say we do that. Let’s say we do that. Let’s say that we do that. Would you be willing to pay four thousand dollars? Do you have four thousand dollars a year in, that you could pay in taxes, into that Marshall Plan, that would make sure every school in America was like the Perry School that we saw in the documentary?
DEMETRIO RODRIGUEZ: Let me ask you a question. How, how did we pay for that Marshall plan? How are we paying for all these wars we’re fighting for other nations to fight their enemies when we don’t fight our own enemy that we have here, illiteracy?
BILL MOYERS: We taxed and borrowed.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We tried, we tried in nineteen eighty-three in Ohio, the biggest tax increase in state history. We could try that again, but what, with the, with the concern I have, is that if we raise taxes and hurt the economy in this state, one of the most important factors as to how a child does in school is to whether Mom or Dad has a job. And we have a strong jobs climate in this state, and I’m not going to vote for a major tax increase that hurts the job climate in the state of Ohio.
WILLIAM PHILLIS: I, I take exception, I, Bill, I take exception to this, these figures of a hundred billion dollars, uh, the, this, uh, this, this whole idea, the four thousand dollars per citizen. This is ridiculous. We have a ten bil —
We have a ten billion dollar facility problem in this state. It’s doable to fix our buildings, but when we say it’s going to take a hundred billion or two hundred billion or whatever, uh, that’s just a, a ridiculous statement.
JONATHAN KOZOL: Let me bring it back just briefly to the national level and away from Ohio. Uh, I think that, that, uh, David Gergen made a very good point when he said that voters are not going to support these, these, uh, financial requests we’re making for our children, u-, unless they believe that the schools are run efficiently, that the money is going to be well spent. And that, no matter how the money is raised, whether it’s from local property taxes which are pooled for the common good, or statewide income tax, or whether it ultimately some day comes out of our national wealth, which is how most other modern developed nations do finance their schools. We’re unique in that respect. But whatever system is ultimately used, I agree with David that ultimately, uh, we’ve got to convince people that we’re running a tight ship, that it’s efficient. But beyond that, looking ahead now, just speaking as Americans, my own thought is that simply to dream of more efficient inequality would not be a noble goal for us in a good society. It just doesn’t seem right. We know that we wouldn’t play Little League Baseball the way we run our school system. It wouldn’t be fair.
DAVID GERGEN: I agree with you and I, I think if you, if people were called back to the values that existed at the beginning of the Republic, if you go back to the Declaration, all men are created equal, by that, by our creator, endowed with these equal rights. As Martin Luther King did, when, when I have a dream, he went back to the Declaration, as Abraham Lincoln did at Gettysburg, people will respond to that in this country. This is a good and generous country at heart, but in order to get them to open their hearts to that, I do think there has to be a compact. A compact which says we owe it to the children, but let’s understand what’s already happening in this country. Today, per child, we spend about six thousand dollars per child. That’s higher than any other industrialized country. And yet we have teachers who get paid less than they get paid in other industrialized countries. We have teachers who do not have textbooks. The compact has to say we owe it to the child, but we have to have a compact that that money be spent in a way that people think is responsible. The taxpayers have a right to res-, expect the education establishment to be responsible.
MICHAEL CASSERLY: Yeah, David, let me pick up on that, and also on, uh, on Jonathan’s point. Uh, I think you’re absolutely right that, uh, a com-, such a compact is absolutely necessary. But in that six thousand dollar figure that you just used, the average urban school system in this country which has considerably higher proportions of poverty is funded at five hundred dollars less per child, less per child, than the national average, and Jonathan’s right. It’s not just enough for us to manage the crumbs efficiently.
DAVID GERGEN: I think that’s right. I think we have a moral obligation to those children. And it’s, and, I think most Americans watching that film, so powerful, would be shocked by what they saw.
JONATHAN KOZOL: Let me just some-, one thing quickly. Here, however, is the bottom line on, on the efficiency issue. Even if New York City managed its money with the most perfect efficiency, as, as good as the tightest, leanest corporation in this country, and by the way, they’re doing a much better job now than in the past, it is pretty lean already, but even if there were not a dollar wasted, still New York City can only afford to spend fifty cents on a little fourth-grade child in the Bronx, for every dollar that they can spend out in suburban Greatneck. And that, to me, is morally un-, unacceptable, and I don’t even know many people in Greatneck who think it’s fair.
SENATOR CAROL MOSELEY-BRAUN: Let’s face it. This problem cannot be fixed on the cheap. It is going to require some national commitment, a climate of opinion that says investment is necessary. Equity issues, as well as the issues that the GAO talked about. You’re looking at a hundred and twelve billion dollars. Billion dollars, minimal, just to fix up buildings. And so, you know, whether we’re talking about improving the quality of education, you can’t very well improve the quality of education if the kids are going to schools with leaky roofs and windows that are broken out.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: But…
SENATOR CAROL MOSELEY-BRAUN: And so we have to be, we have to, I think, reach the point of understanding that as Americans, how we approach this issue very much defines us as a community. And very much defines our collective interests, not just the interest of one person’s child, but whether or not we’re going to have a community that can compete in this global economy, whether we’re going to be able to address any number of social issues, everything from the prison issues to the crime, to the health status, all these things are related to education. But it’s going to require a commitment and a, to, to say, this is a place where we haven’t been making an investment. We need to fix that.
BILL MOYERS: But realistically, Senator, realistically, you know we’re living in a very fractious time. We’re living in a time in which we’re shouting at each other, in which we’re more divided, perhaps, than we’ve been in a long time. That’s, uh, wonderful, and I, uh, uh, and, and, and laudable aspiration, but the practical politics today make it seem to me un-, unlikely that we’ll reach the kind of, uh, bipartisan approach that you…
SENATOR CAROL MOSELEY-BRAUN: The practical politics today are no different than they were when the founding fathers came together, and that is to say that decision-making follows the climate of opinion, follows the popular will. I tell you, our democracy works in that regard. If the public opinion says education is important, and no, we’re not going to just let people get away with just talking about education being a priority, but we’re going to have to see what they do to make education a priority, then it will be solved.
BILL MOYERS: But more and more people are saying public education is not a priority. We want to send our kids to private schools. We want vouchers to put them in religious schools. We want to find alternatives to public education.
SENATOR CAROL MOSELEY-BRAUN: And I think that that’s where it’s up to us to create a climate of hope that we, that our public system does protect and advance a public good, that we can’t just do it by allowing it to resort to every child’s own particular circumstance.
BILL MOYERS: There’s a woman right back here I know is from Cleveland. You introduced yourself to me before. You’re from the Parents for Public Schools, an organization that does what?
CHERYL DUBOSE: Uh, we’re P-A-T-T, Parents and Teachers Together. My name is Cheryl DuBose.
BILL MOYERS: Stand up, Miss DuBose, and you wanted to say something. Take the microphone. Just for a second.
CHERYL DUBOSE: Yes, because I’m pretty well heated at a couple of things that he was saying up here. To me, they’re giving our kids Kibbles ‘N’ Bits, and we’re sick of it. You can take that to our, uh, Mr. Voynivich. He’s supposed to be the educational governor. He should be here.
BILL MOYERS: What would you like to see happen, Miss DuBose?
CHERYL DUBOSE: I would like to see, especially in Cleveland, the petty politics stopped. I would like to see them not to be using our kids as pawns.
BILL MOYERS: Who is they?
CHERYL DUBOSE: They being, uh, starting at the top, from our mayor, which was more concerned about the Browns, okay, than our children. Our children are more important to us than our Browns. The, their Browns, rather, because I didn’t go to a game.
CHERYL DUBOSE: Uh, their priorities are mixed up in Cleveland.
BILL MOYERS: For building a stadium for the Browns?
CHERYL DUBOSE: Exactly. They’re building hotels. They’re building everything ‘cept for schools, which we need for our children. Their priorities are mixed up.
BILL MOYERS: There is a, there is a student behind you. There’s a student behind you who wanted to speak a moment ago. Is this a good time? Where is he? Yes, sir.
TERRELL CRUTCHFIELD: My name is Terrell Crutchfield, and what I wanted to say was, it’s local and state. Our mayor and the county commissioners went, came to Columbus, to state legislatures, to push for a hundred percent free tax abatement on all of our new facilities, which they did get. They don’t have to pay anything, and my question is, why would our mayor, first of all, go do that, because that property tax money could be going, is supposed to be going to the schools, and why would state legislatures let this happen?
BILL MOYERS: Thank you very much. Yes, Mister Fox.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: The, the answer to the question that he raised, and it’s a good question, it’s, it’s really a difficult policy question for every legislature in America, and that is, uh, the competition between states for jobs. The, the short answer to your question is, the reason we allow local governments to grant these inducements to businesses to come to Cleveland, and Cleveland is a city where they’ve brought thousands of jobs back into the city, is because we’re constantly raided by Kentucky, where they have, uh, tax abatements that are incredibly generous, and we’re fighting to keep those jobs in our, our, our community, so the answer to the question is so that when you do graduate, hopefully those jobs will be there so you can go to them. But let me also…
BILL MOYERS: Has our, has our society become a war of all against all in this regard?
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: It has…
JONATHAN KOZOL: …smiling at, at Bill just now when you said that, because, I mean, it is, it does feel, when you see districts competing with each other, uh, it does feel like a war of all against all. One solution, of course, in a Utopian future would be if the United States chose to finance its public schools the way virtually all other modern developed nations do, out of our national wealth. Out, out of federal taxes, and then nobody could raid anybody.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: Are you suggesting…
JONATHAN KOZOL: No one, no one, no one in New York would worry about being raided by Connecticut.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: Are you suggesting that we go to Washington to fund my local schools…
JONATHAN KOZOL: It might be a good idea. You might get more money out of it actually.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: Every dollar…
(laughter & applause)
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: But let me tell you, let me tell you, Jonathan, for every dollar this state gets in assistance from the federal government…
JONATHAN KOZOL: Right.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: …it costs us five dollars to comply with their unfunded mandates.
SENATOR CAROL MOSELEY-BRAUN: Excuse me, but you, I haven’t seen you turning any of it away.
(cheering & applause)
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: Well, well, that’s not right, we have turned it away. And we’re turning away, right now, we’re got a big discussion on outcome-based education, the Goals 2000 money.
SENATOR CAROL MOSELEY-BRAUN: The point, however, is that the day when we can afford to point fingers at each other, and break down into I’m an Ohioan versus you’re an Illinoisan, or I live in East St. Louis versus Chicago, those days have to be behind us. We are Americans, and as Americans, we are all in this together.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: Do Americans have the right…
SENATOR CAROL MOSELEY-BRAUN: And as Americans, as Americans, we have an absolute responsibility to see to it that every American child has a chance to be educated so that they can hold their own in this global economy, and so that our nation can stay strong. That is the issue before us today.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: But why…
SENATOR CAROL MOSELEY-BRAUN: And it is not a matter of the pointing fingers at Washington…
MICHAEL CASSERLY: That’s absolutely right. That’s a mindset that has developed in this country that, that is, uh, I’ve got mine. Too bad about you.
SENATOR CAROL MOSELEY-BRAUN: That’s right.
MICHAEL CASSERLY: And all of this fractionalization is exacerbating that problem, and it’s exactly the mindset that keeps, uh, the kind of, uh, finance system, uh, that we have in this country for schools.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: Does, does an American have the right…
SENATOR BEN ESPY: Let me get a word in first, Mike. I’m going to get a word in. I’ve got to yell to get over there, I guess, get a word in, but I have all these notes, and I want to get something out.
SENATOR BEN ESPY: I want, and I want to go back to Ohio, because since most people here are from Ohio, I think they should know certain facts about how this state operates. We give corporations in this state zero percent interest on four million dollar loans. Twenty percent of our schools get emergency loans, and we charge them seven percent. And there’s something wrong with that picture, too. This whole spin that you all are trying to put on how great we’re doing in Ohio, we are actually failing kids and we know that. The documentary is great, but I am not for once, David, think that legislators in Ohio are going to be persuaded by emotion. They know the condition of these schools, and they will not do anything until the courts tell them they must do it. And that’s why, that’s why…
(applause & cheering)
SENATOR BEN ESPY: That is why, that is why, that is why all this talk about what we’re doing on incremental basis means nothing. We have kids who ha-, don’t have incremental lives. They have to go through first grade year by year. By the time you solve our school building funding problem, it takes two hundred and twenty-one years at the rate we’re going now, and you know that.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: Senator, let me point something out.
SENATOR BEN ESPY: We’re trying, we’re trying to wire schools, We’re trying to wire schools where kids go to the bathroom outside.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: Mister Rodriguez.
SENATOR BEN ESPY: I asked, I asked a legislator, what about that kid going outside to the outhouse. He said, “We’ll buy ‘em laptops.” That’s the attitude we have in Ohio regarding, regarding our school kids.
(laughter & applause)
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: Now Mister Rodriguez won, I, I disagree with you on one thing…
SENATOR BEN ESPY: Of course you do.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: …and that is, is that, uh, the court decision is that Nirvana. You won your case, didn’t you, Mister Rodriguez?
DEMETRIO RODRIGUEZ: Well…
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: You won your case and the Texas legislature is still fiddlin’ around with funding it.
BILL MOYERS: Good question. Nothing, nothing has happened, has it, really?
DEMETRIO RODRIGUEZ: Well, actually, they have given us some, and, and, uh, but it’s just like, uh, he said, on-, the only reason they gave us money, sir, and they help us a little, is because the court’s, uh, the court’s been after them. And the legislatures will never answer unless the courts…
AUDIENCE MEMBER: That’s right.
BILL MOYERS: We have a judge back here, uh, who made a, a very important decision in the state of Kentucky on this issue. Judge, stand up, tell us who you are and what you wanted to say. I saw you, when you, when, when these gentlemen mentioned the court, I could see you rising to the occasion.
BILL MOYERS: That is not a gavel.
RAY CORNS: I’m Ray Corns, retired circuit judge from Frankfurt, Kentucky, and I was the trial judge who had the school funding case first filed there in nineteen eighty-five, and I’m glad to report that as of today, it is fully funded, and we’re making, I believe, tremendous strides in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and I say this with humility and not with any other point in mind, we’re getting many people, parents from southern Ohio, who are calling across the river, asking if they ch-, their children can come now to the schools in Kentucky.
BILL MOYERS: May I ask you what you, what the state did after your decision that has funded the court’s requirement?
RAY CORNS: Number one, we considered the state as a unit. We had the same arguments from Louisville and Lexington that you should not take those moneys and send them to Appalachia, Kentucky. But thanks to the media, they suddenly realized, or came to realize, that poor schools anywhere in Kentucky, hurt Kentuckians everywhere. So what the governor and legislature did, after the Supreme Court upheld my judgment, they put on the largest tax increase we’ve ever had in the history of Kentucky…
BILL MOYERS: Income tax?
RAY CORNS: One point three billion, they added it, one cent to the sales tax, raised it from five to six cents, and had a major revision in the income tax, and sent eight hundred million new tax dollars from the state to the local districts and Mister Moyers, that’s where the money has to come. The local districts will never be able to support an adequate school program.
BILL MOYERS: What was your decision? What did you decide?
RAY CORNS: I decided two things. Number one, education is a fundamental right, and a child’s quality of education cannot be contingent upon geography. Every child has a right to an adequate, equal educational opportunity, wherever they live, throughout Kentucky. We’ve had no political fall-out, and the eight hundred million new plus dollars still going to the local districts, as of this hour, and we’re in the fifth, almost sixth, year of our program.
BILL MOYERS: Mister Phillis, did you file, did you…
BILL MOYERS: Did you file your, did your coalition file the suit because you want a judge to say what Judge Corns said in Kentucky?
WILLIAM PHILLIS: What we asked the court to do is to declare the education is a fundamental right. In other words, regardless of geography, regardless of demographics, regardless of anything that’s going on in the life of the kid, that child is entitled to a quality education. Twenty years ago, I went to, as a bureaucrat, as Assistant Superintendent of Public Instruction, I went to Vinton County to try to help get good facilities for the Vinton County students. Twenty years later, with this incremental plan, this incremental financing, and by the way, with the hundred and twenty million dollars, uh, that’s available for, uh, public school buildings for the next two years, at that rate of spending, it’ll take a hundred and seventy years to deal with the ten billion dollar facility problem. Now most of us don’t have that much time.
WILLIAM PHILLIS: Now what, what we want is for all children to have a quality building, quality materials, quality supplies, quality programs. That’s the mission of the coalition.
BILL MOYERS: Steve Anderson’s been trying to get in here. Steve Anderson is the Superintendent of this district where this very fine Dublin Coughlin High School exists. What were you wanting to say?
STEPHEN ANDERSON: I, I find the whole concept of, uh, the Town Meeting very interesting and speaking on behalf, I think, of a lot of professional educators, I’d like to say to the politicians that are in this room and in this country and I’m, I’m not trying to personalize it, but I think it’s an excellent example of how we as adults, uh, lose track of, uh, what our focus should be, and it really should be children, and I would, I would challenge the politicians in this state, and in this country, that if you sat in one of those classrooms that you saw on TV today, and looked the children in the eyes for a week the way our teachers do and our principals do, the children in this country would take on a very different priority than they are in this country today, or have, probably, the last hundred years.
STEPHEN ANDERSON: We do, we do have a political system to contend with, that’s obvious. Uh, that’s an obvious reality that we all have to live with, and everybody has to defend themselves, and we adults have to, uh, be engaged in a win-lose situation, and as an educator speaking for, I know, many of my colleagues throughout the country, uh, we cannot afford to be the winners as the adults and our children be the losers, and I see our children consistently, in many of our public schools, being losers. I’m the product of one of those public schools. I’ve had to look those kids in the eyes as a teacher for thirteen years in those schools, and I’m telling you, clearly if each of us were to have to do that for one week, you would take on a very, very different perspective in what your priorities are.
BILL MOYERS: Speaking of letting young people speak for themselves, or looking them in the eye, there are two young people have had their hands up for several minutes now. Tell us your name, your school, your grade.
MEGAN GOODLIN: I’m Megan Goodlin, from Vinton County, Ohio, and I am one of those schools. I am one of those children from that video. I would like you guys to look me in the eye and tell me I’m not worth that money.
BILL MOYERS: That’s a hard one. But who’ll step up to it?
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: I think that, uh, you are worth that money. And I think that every child in the state is worth that money. And what we are trying to build is a legislative coalition. It has to reach across party lines, rural and urban and suburb districts, and one of the difficulties we have in building that coalition to deal with this problem and there are many of us that are committed to it, the, the folks in Hamilton, I, Jonathan, I don’t come from a rich district. The average person in my home town of Hamilton makes twenty-six thousand dollars a year. And they get puzzled when they read about a custodian in Cleveland that makes eighty thousand dollars a year, while the average teacher in the Cleveland system makes forty-four thousand dollars a year. Then they say, why are you going to tax me more to do that, and why can’t we free up, and I, I can tell my colleagues here, and I’ll tell the, the, the stakeholders here, I will be happy to build a coalition. I think you’re going to have to expand the constituency for public education and reach out to all kinds of groups to get this problem solved in the sense of a mission to the moon. It cost us a hundred billion dollars to put a man on the, on the moon.
JONATHAN KOZOL: And the federal government paid for that, right?
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: Well, Jonathan, well, well, well, well, Jonathan, well, Jonathan, look. Jonathan, Jonathan, but, but, but let me, let me, let me, this is…
JONATHAN KOZOL: That is one of those nationalized programs.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: If I can, if I can make this, this last point.
JONATHAN KOZOL: Sure.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: I don’t want children to go to schools because they’re the only choice they have. I want them to go to that public school because it’s the best choice. And let parents have that right, and we can build the coalition. But don’t keep these people chained to a failed system. That’s, that is the essence of it.
JONATHAN KOZOL: Let, let me just br-, briefly return to the very moving statement that this young woman made, because in her voice, there was such tremendous feeling, and you know, whether we’re talking about white or black or Latino kids, kids who live in low-income districts ask that kind of question all the time, because per-pupil spending in schools is one of the few places in America where we explicitly tell people how much we think they’re worth. And when she’s able to, you know, ask that question, am I worth as much money as they’re spending on the daughter of a wealthy person, uh, that’s a question that cuts to the core for us, as Americans.
DAVID GERGEN: This, this discussion keeps on being defined in terms of money, and I think if we, if, if that’s the level at which we discuss it, I think it’s very difficult to be anything but fractious, because we keep on, in effect, talking about how do we redistribute the same size pie. I think it’s possible to be much more optimistic about these kind of issues than this discussion has suggested. Uh, I, I k-, I grew up in the south, and it’s been remarkable to me that, that political leaders have emerged there in one state after another at the gubernatorial level, who have been true education leaders, and have made a difference, but they did it not by simply talking about money, but by emphasizing progress, social and economic progress for the entire state. They lifted the — they, they put more money into the schools, and they also emphasize reforms in the schools. And the school leaders were able to, uh, to, to reform things. They, for example, changed the standards for teachers so that retiring military people could come in and teach and they made good, they made good teachers. Now, and it was possible, in state after state, in the south, by people, in effect, lowering their voices and raising their expectations to, to build coalitions that worked. The state of Mississippi today, now everybody fifteen, twen-, thirty years ago, everybody looked at as the bottom of the pack. In the state of Mississippi today, fourth-graders are now scoring higher on national test scores than are fourth-graders in California. And that includes fourth-graders who are white in California. You know, so it’s possible, through positive leadership, that’s not divisive, that’s not fractious, to do this.
PAUL HOUSTON: I think that part of the debate here, and I think part of the solution is how we look at children. Are children a cost to be con-, contained, or an investment to be built upon. And I think a lot of the discussion we have hinges on our view of whether the cost or, or, uh, an investment. We spent a billion and a half dollars a day educating kids. That, that’s a staggering amount of money, and it makes us feel like, well, there must be a tremendous amount of money there to be saved. If you turn that around, that’s thirty-three dollars a child. That’s fairly inexpensive day care, I would maintain.
DAVID GERGEN: Help us understand this question, to come back to my point. How is it that in city after city, in inner city schools, the Catholic schools, with the same profile of student…
WILLIAM PHILLIS: Well, that’s where you get into a problem right there.
DAVID GERGEN: There is an awful of evidence that with basically the same income background, at fifty to sixty percent of the spending, they turn out better results. Why is that true? I mean, there is abundant amount of evidence about Catholic schools.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: But let, let me give you, this, this is so important, that, that Milwaukee, we have an example.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Ohio.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: But let me, let me, in Mil-, in Milwaukee, just this week, a liberal Democrat lifelong professor at Harvard University released data on the Milwaukee school scholarship experience, and those children for substantially less money profile the same as the Milwaukee school system. They’re the poorest of the poor, and their achievement now is dramatically higher than the Milwaukee public school systems.
SENATOR BEN ESPY: Let me talk about Ohio.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: For less money. For less money.
SENATOR BEN ESPY: Ohio’s, Ohio’s voucher program, Ohio’s voucher program’s entirely different. I’d rather be talking about Ohio than Mil-, Milwaukee.
MICHAEL CASSERLY: Yeah, let’s get the facts straight, I think, on the, uh, Milwaukee and some of these other, uh, uh, cases. The truth of the matter, uh, David, in study after study, uh, when you do hold, uh, constant, uh, all of the background, uh, characteristics, uh, that the performance is actually quite comparable, uh, in public schools and, uh, private schools, if not even better in public schools.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: So why shouldn’t we get, why shouldn’t we get, if we can get the same results, for as is the case in Milwaukee, for several thousand dollars less per child, but that can free up more money to be spent on these things we’re talking about, if we can get the same results for less money…
(everyone talking at once)
MICHAEL CASSERLY: These are, those are kids in Milwaukee who have chosen to go to those schools to avail themselves of those vouchers, uh, and these are not the same kids and the dollar equivalence is not the same.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FOX: That’s not true.
SENATOR CAROL MOSELEY-BRAUN: Public education is mandatory…
BILL MOYERS: There’s a gentleman here.
REVEREND DUBOSE: Excuse me, Mister Moyer, if this, this state of Ohio…
BILL MOYERS: Give us your name.
REVEREND DUBOSE: Well, my name is Reverend DuBose. I’m a Cleveland parent in the Cleveland public schools. This gentleman right here is just really, when I say this gentleman, I mean you, Mister Fox, I want to point blank and talk to you personally. You are really irking me and you are really making me boil, because the state of Ohio is in charge of the Cleveland public schools right now, and the state of Ohio, you talk about the state, the state of Ohio has been there for over a year, and there is not one book in the Cleveland public school system that addresses the science part of the proficiency test. There is not one book in the whole Cleveland public school system, sir, that addresses the social studies part of the proficiency test. Then you want to hold teachers accountable for the proficiency results, when you’re not even giving them the tools to work with. And what really angers me, as I sit here and listen to this, and you talk about money, all the people with money always talk about the people that don’t have any don’t need any more. And that angers me, because it’s always the people who have the money, and because you have the money you don’t want to share it, and this is a, it’s the have or the have-nots. Every child deserves an education, as you say, and public education’s the only way to get that done…
BILL MOYERS: Let me ask you…
REVEREND DUBOSE: …There is no financing available for private education for every child, sir.
Randall Gardner:: Just because, just because a legislator might not live in Cleveland doesn’t mean that they’re not concerned about what’s going on in tho-, those schools. But let me, but let me make one point that is of concern to a lot of rural school children and parents and in, in suburban areas as well, that in the Cleveland public schools, they’re already spending much more per student than we are in Wood County. Spending much, much more per pupil, and people are questioning some of the results.
Randall Gardner: I’m not saying that’s the only issue.
JONATHAN KOZOL: That’s an absurd argument.
Randall Gardner: Thank you.
JONATHAN KOZOL: That really insults…
BILL MOYERS: Gentlemen, ladies and gentlemen.
JONATHAN KOZOL: All the discussion, or much of it, when we debate these issues, tends to be financial, and, uh, even the advocates or the liberal, old liberal advocates like myself, tend, when we go to Capitol Hill, for example, to advance only the economic issues, but when you see the, the material we saw in the documentary film, and when you visit in many of those schools, not just in Cleveland or Cincinnati, but in many other cities, uh, and you, you sense the, the morbidity of daily life in a building that’s so squalid and unpleasant. Don’t these kids deserve to enjoy their childhood? Uh, shouldn’t they be able to have twelve or thirteen years in which they’re surrounded by something that’s beautiful? Even if it doesn’t pay off, even if it isn’t useful to America’s competitive edge, even if it isn’t good for IBM or General Motors or Wall Street, why not just give these little kids in Cleveland a beautiful school to go to because they’re babies and deserve to have some fun before they die? Wouldn’t that be a good reason to do it as Americans who love children? If we do love children.
BILL MOYERS: I’d like to ask Joan Dykstra, I’d like to ask Joan Dykstra, who’s been quiet during this discussion, uh, to tell us, what do you think?
JOAN DYKSTRA: I think there’s been a lot of discussion nationwide, not just here in this room, and certainly not just in Ohio, about how this nation not only looks at its children, but how we treat them. And as the documentary showed, that we definitely have some crisis, in, certainly, some of our schools across this nation. The report shows also that we have not taken care of our children for a long time, and that we also thought that we were taking care of them, and that we were meeting their needs. Why, in this country, do we always have to have crisis before we acknowledge that we need to do something? And I think we’re there, so if this documentary, if this panel, with all of the varying opinions of how to fix it, if that will make the call to this nation, not only for its parents, but certainly for every person in this nation, that we will not pit one generation against another, but that we will look at this and say, it’s time for us to actually commit to the thing that made our democracy great, and that was giving every child in this country the best public education that we could give them, and certainly a healthy environment, and a safe environment, so that every day they could go to school and they could learn.
BILL MOYERS: Well, on that note, I have to bring this discussion to a close, because we’re out of time. I want to thank all of you on the panel for braving each other. I want to thank all of you behind us for coming and providing moral and verbal support to different sides, and I want to thank all of you for your, uh, general patience and, and time. A discussion like this settles nothing, but it does, I think, intensify the conversation and democracy is about trying to talk our way through to solutions to the great challenges that we face as we move toward the twenty-first century. So thanks to actually all of you in this room, and to Public Broadcasting in particular, to Jeffrey Hayden and Eva Marie Saint for their commitment to this project, and let’s keep the conversation going. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you.
This transcript was entered on April 27, 2015.