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  • by Blaine Helwig

Is Title 1 Public Education 'Working'? – Depends on Perspective!

Updated: Jan 3, 2023

I do not own a washing machine. Never have. I use the condominium laundry room with its ten washing machines and dryers to handle my laundry needs. I can wash or dry multiple loads of laundry simultaneously in 30 minutes, respectively. None of this all day thing with only one washing machine – one load in – then another load, etc. The time efficiency factor governs the process in this case.

The other day, I placed my clothes in five washing machines. After the washing cycle finished, I loaded the wet clothes into five dryers. Thirty minutes later when buzzer sounded, I went to remove the clothes from the dryers. Unfortunately, I discovered that one of the five laundry loads was as wet as when I had originally placed them in the dryer. I uttered a verbal remark expressing my frustration. One of my condominium neighbors also washing his dirty clothes, turned around and asked, “Does that dryer not work?”

I glanced at him and replied, “Well, that depends on your perspective. The dryer took the money/quarters, but it did not dry the clothes. From the vendor’s perspective, the machine worked pretty well. From yours or my point-of-view, the dryer is not working.”

Title 1 Public Education – ‘Does that System ‘Work’?’

Approximately sixty (60) percent of this country’s public schools are classified as Title 1 due to students of poverty receiving free or reduced lunch. The yearly workings of the mass of Title 1 public schools are very much like my laundry day mishap. Many Title 1 traditional and charter schools chronically do not yield equitable academic results in comparison to their more affluent public school counterparts. Therefore, obviously, the educational system must not be working.

However, that last statement is not necessarily true. Whether the Title 1 public schools are working or not working really depends on one’s perspective. The taxpayers are inserting money into the public education machine, and that industry is not having any difficulty accepting billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars each school year. From a comparative perspective, American Title 1 public schools continue to perform poorly academically; however, there are still benefactors regardless of heightened success or continued failure.

Analogously, the clothes-drying machine most certainly did NOT work to a level of performance that I expected. That situation occurred despite the fact that the vendor received his $1.25, and yet I received wet clothes. However, I took my clothes out of the non-functioning machine and placed them in another dryer. Of course, I had to pay another $1.25 and wait another 30 minutes – a little inconvenience – a little more money – a little more of my time, but in the end, I got what I came for – five loads of clean laundry, washed and dried. Of course, this small misfortune is but a minor inconvenience and does not affect anyone else’s life other than my own.

Again, Title 1 schools’ academic performance are similar to my clothes dryer mishap; however, the major difference with poor student educational outcomes is the large number of folks adversely affected – especially for the children of poverty and color each school year that attend public Title 1 schools with the expectation of an equitable education. Come May and June, despite another massive influx of taxpayer dollars, the Title 1 schools incessantly do not yield equitable academic results as their more affluent peer – the non-Title 1 school or medium to high socioeconomic status school. In that important respect, the public school machine is not working for the Title 1 children, their parents, the funding taxpayer and the current American work force dramatically affected by the demand of employees possessing highly specific education skill sets.

However, there is a small group of educators in every school district and a multitude of advocacy groups associated with public education that frequently benefit regardless of Title 1 public school performance. This small group of educators and advocates continue to receive the annual flow of taxpayer dollars without accountability or credibility of producing educational equity or heightened Title 1 academic outcomes. From their perspective, the Title 1 public education system works every school year – undoubtedly – with a caveat of personal and professional acquiescence.

Final Thoughts and Critical Analysis

The determination of whether a system or a machine is effective or works is not always an analysis based on summative performance, but it is quite often highly dependent upon one’s own personal economic perspective. Consequently, without associated accountability, in an inefficient and ineffective but profitable process, a small group of benefactors not only promotes but also is annually incentivized to maintain the status quo – regardless to the detriment of the many adversely affected.

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