Placating PPS’ ‘radical egalitarians’

Placating PPS’ ‘radical egalitarians’

Today, some necessarily blunt talk about Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS).

We suppose there should be plaudits for the troubled district’s Monday announcement that, as the Post-Gazette reported it, PPS has “proposed significant changes to its physical footprint, including the closure or restructuring of several schools and possible staff reductions.”

Some of the moves could come as soon as the 2021-22 school year and affect hundreds of students and staff members, with layoffs a definite possibility for the latter, the P-G says.

Of course, this footprint reduction, now in draft form, is long overdue in a district that keeps losing students but sees its per-pupil instruction costs skyrocket and, tragically, with evermore abysmal academic results.

More than half-a-dozen schools would close while a number of others would see their grade configurations changed. A district official estimates the plan pares annual operating costs by about $2.5 million but saves about $46 million in future capital costs.

That’s great. Kudos.

But even then, the district notes that this plan lowers the system’s excess capacity from an astounding 17,128 empty seats to a still-astounding 14,348. Obviously, this plan must be considered the first of many to follow.

That, however, is not the worst of PPS’s right-sizing plan. Tucked into district’s general rationale for the move, is something worth a thorough dissection. See if you can identify it below (again, in the words of the P-G reportage):

“The district’s criteria for deciding which schools should be closed or reconfigured included the desire to promote socioeconomic, racial and educational equity; maximize capital spending by investing in buildings better suited for the current learning environment; increase efficiency through energy-saving projects; and optimize building utilization.”

OK, there’s nothing wrong with maximizing capital spending by investing in buildings better suited for the current learning environment.

Neither is there anything wrong with increasing efficiency through energy-saving projects. That is as long as it’s not some eco-wacko plan that, because of its economic and/or operational non-sustainability, does exactly the opposite.

And, no, there not one thing amiss with optimizing building utilization; taxpayers should expect no less.

All that said, it’s time to get out the scalpel and perform a translation-ectomy on the part of the plan that showcases Pittsburgh Public Schools’ “desire to promote socioeconomic, racial and educational equity.”

This kind of “progressive” and “social justice” excuse-making jargon should raise major red flags with anyone who cares about sound educational public policy.

It was just the past New Year’s Eve that independent education scholar Williamson Evers exposed this more and more frequently touted drive for “equity” – versus equal opportunity, that is – for what it really is:

“Equity, which used to mean fairness, has been redefined for both the establishment and agitators as radical egalitarianism,” he wrote. “In higher education radical egalitarianism, which formerly was confined to the humanities and social sciences, now has beachheads in mathematics and the hard sciences.

“What once was only in higher education is now increasingly in K-12 education, the corporate world, and the legal and medical professions.”

And what might its proponents’ agenda be? As it specifically applies to education, Evers says it promotes “the dogma that merit is racist—dismissing concerns … about racial preferences in college admissions” and extending “to federal scrutiny of the disparate impact of admissions policies for honors and AP programs, magnet schools,” among others.

Additionally, Evers says the “equity” agenda-izers proffer the dogma “that all group disparities are signs of oppression—by attacking suspensions and imposing racial quotas in K-12 student discipline, which would take the form of objecting to any perceived disparate impact of student disciplinary policies.”

Simply put, it is excuse-making – for students not learning and not behaving and for teachers not teaching and not disciplining. As Pittsburgh Public Schools now showcases.

Concludes Evers:

“Despite the rhetoric … money per se doesn’t boost student achievement.” Pittsburgh Public Schools remains a steadfast testament to that.

And the educational programs that “progressives” keep dusting off and keep “improving” with new shades of lipstick never have worked.

Yes, the radical egalitarians – i.e. unionized educrats — may see their cause subsidized and placated, Evers says, “but it will be at the expense of children and their education.”

It’s abundantly clear that Pittsburgh Public Schools has not only failed to educate generations of children, iteration after iteration of school directors and superintendents don’t know how.

And slapping the latest buzz words and phrases onto an ancillary physical plant plan that, though long overdue, will prove to be inadequate before its even implemented, will lead to more of the same-old, same-old.

It most certainly will serve obediently those “radical egalitarians.” But it will continue to dis-serve taxpayers, parents and, most importantly, Pittsburgh’s public-school students.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).