Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Nonprofit Fundraising Groups Promoting Inequality at Newport-Mesa Unified School District

If you listened to Shanta Driver's comments on Sunday, much of her argument for affirmative action rests on the idea that K-12 education is "segregated" and inherently unequal for students of color. Nowhere have I heard her distinguish between de jure and de facto segregation (she can't because to do so would drain the emotionalism right out of her arguments), although if she had any intellectual credibility she might discuss the real ways in which de facto patterns of racial imbalance create economic differences among students in public education.

I've been worried about these problems for a long time. I teach lots of students who come from majority-minority public schools (a real problem in Long Beach), and it's just one more factor that explains their inadequate academic preparation and difficulties in achieving student success. (This is, in fact, the main problem facing my college as an institution, but as noted the cause is not just de facto school segregation).

In any case, a fascinating example that I've been closely familiar with for a long time is the Newport-Mesa Unified School District. Newport Beach is one of the most affluent cities in the state, in not the country. And right next door is Costa Mesa, a nice city, very beautiful, but extremely diverse and a longtime magnet for recent immigrants from Mexico and Latin America. I often refer to it as the O.C.'s "Little Santa Ana."

Sunday's Costa Mesa Daily Pilot ran a great front-page report on this, "Unintended consequence of foundation groups: inequality":
The median income in Newport Beach hovered around $109,677, according to U.S. Census data collected between 2008 and 2012, whereas it was $65,373 in Costa Mesa for the same time period.

In Newport-Mesa Unified, there are 13 foundations serving schools on an individual level. Out of the 20 schools in Costa Mesa, there are four foundations serving Costa Mesa Middle School and High School, TeWinkle Middle School and Estancia High School, Kaiser Elementary and Woodland Elementary, and California Elementary. The nonprofits raised about $484,000 in 2012, according to tax forms.

There are nine foundations serving the 12 schools in Newport Beach. In all, they raised about $3.6 million in 2012, according to the organizations' tax forms.

The only group that funds all of the district's schools is the Newport-Mesa Schools Foundation, which provides money to individual teachers through a grant program, said Barbara Harrington, president of the Newport-Mesa Schools Foundation.

In 2012, the organization raised slightly more than $1 million, according to tax forms.

When the Newport-Mesa Schools Foundation was first formed in the 1980s, it raised money to provide services like extra music teachers and instruments for schools, similar to how current foundations operate at individual campuses, Harrington said.

However, more-affluent communities became upset that they were raising money for teachers on the poorer side of town, she said. In response, the organization changed the way it operates.

"If you try to equalize it, and people see that more money is coming from the Eastside and funding the poorer areas, you'd find that people on the Eastside wouldn't give as much the next year," she said.

While the pockets may not be as deep in some Costa Mesa schools compared with Newport Beach communities, student education doesn't suffer, DeVusser said.

"We don't have a foundation that sits behind us and asks us what we need," he said. "We do have incredible teachers that work every day to make sure kids are receiving a quality education, regardless of where they live."

The Costa Mesa High School Foundation has been expanding in recent years in order to access more donors and be comparable to other foundations in more-affluent areas, said Foundation President and Newport-Mesa Board Trustee Katrina Foley.

Foundations have proven to help schools deal with education cutbacks handed down from the state in recent years, she said.

"Foundations should come in and pay for the extras," she said. "We need to get back to that."
So, while you can see the clear disparities in economic resources between the Newport Beach schools and those of Costa Mesa, the fact remains that even if spending were 100 percent equal on all the money raised by the nonprofits, educational performance among the Newport Beach students would far surpass the performance of kids in Costa Mesa schools. The reasons for this are found in the intangible factors that regressive leftists refuse to talk about. Things like the breakdown of the family in minority communities, illiteracy (particularly among poorer minority families and recent immigrant children), and cultural disadvantages that have longstanding bases in the natural dynamics of social strata in American society. Very little of these things can be changed by equalizing funding. Change has to come about through larger public policies that strengthen families and communities among very traditional and conservative lines. In a word, "values" matter. There will be little improvement in educational outcomes among the disadvantaged until regressive leftists stop blaming "structural inequality," "racism," and "white privilege," and start building families and communities from the bottom up, along the lines of upward mobility that have marked successful ethnic groups throughout American history.