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Black Middle Class Abandoning PG County Public Schools

Closed School

Prince George’s County, Maryland stands out from the rest of the country in that it is among the most affluent majority-black counties in the US. But despite its uniqueness, it is quickly falling prey to a common trend—middle class parents are pulling their children out of public schools and putting them in private competitors that offer a better education.

PG County Executive Rushern L. Baker III is well aware of this trend and is taking steps to improve the quality of the schools in an effort to bring back these middle class students. The county has just approved Baker’s plan for a massive overhaul of the school board, and he has promised a number of other educational changes, although this part of his proposal has been light on actual details. But as the Washington Post reports, while middle class families are watching these changes with interest, few have actually made the leap and put their kids back in public schools. And as the middle class students and parents abandon the system, the situation is likely to get worse for those that remain:

Many experts and schools officials say a return of students from middle-class families is a key component to turning around struggling school systems.

Richard D. Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, said students from low-income families benefit from attending school “where your classmates expect to go on to college and act in a way that is conducive to that.” […]

It is unclear how many Prince George’s middle-class families home-school or send their children to private school. Briant Coleman, a spokesman for the school system, said the county does not track those students. But the school population has been dwindling and the percentage of poor students increasing significantly, evidence that middle-class students have been leaving the system.

For years, people have blamed many of the problems in minority-majority school districts on “white flight,” arguing that middle class whites abandoning public schools is responsible for much of the struggles of these institutions. But this suggests that middle-class blacks and whites are doing the same thing—leaving blue cities for better opportunities and living conditions, and leaving old style public schools because they want a better education for their kids.

This also reinforces the idea that school reform aimed at giving middle class parents incentives to stay in the system—smaller schools, different models of learning, bigger role for parents—helps all kids.

[Closed school image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • Anthony

    There have also been reports of white parents fleeing from public schools in California that are too Asian. Aparently, they want to move into districts where it will be easier for their children to graduate near the top of their class.

    “One white mother who was taking her son to an after-school soccer game noticed all the Asian American parents arriving to take their children
    to an after-school study program. A few years of her son playing soccer while the Asian kids were hitting the books would be bound to create
    academic disparities.”

    • 1stworlder

      Asians evolved under the same conditions as Europeans.

  • Anthony

    Education (public) and its delivery for K-12 students appears to present 21st century America with horn of dilemma: how do we pay for quality public education and how do we know it when we see it institutionally (high performing schools). Content is skill, skill content.

    • 1stworlder

      Fortunately the Cato institute did a study on St Louis when it was given a blank check and outspent every public school per student with a 12-1 student teacher ratio and found out throwing money at non Asian minorities had no effect

  • Pete

    “Richard D. Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, said students from low-income families benefit from attending school ‘where your classmates expect to go on to college and act in a way that is conducive to that.” […]'”

    Maybe… but the elephant in the room that Kahlenberg seems to ignores is the effect the presence of low-income kids, quite often unruly & disruptive,has on dragging down the academic performance (and morals) of middle income kids.

    But I guess that does not matter in a society like ours which is drunk on extreme egalitarianism.

    This is also why a unconscionable amount of taxpayer money is spent on the bottom of the barrel of public school students — trying to make them ‘college ready,’ etc.— and precious little on the truly bright ones. Fact.

    It is not for nothing that it is said that ‘one bad apple spoils the bunch.” Indeed, it is as sociologically accurate as it is scientifically.

    And one last thought to chew on: No doubt a lot of those so-called middle class blacks who are pulling their kids out of the public schools are employed in one way or another by the government, especially in public education. Ironic, huh?

  • Corlyss

    “But this suggests that middle-class blacks and whites are doing the same thing—leaving blue cities for better opportunities and living conditions, and leaving old style public schools because they want a better education for their kids.”

    Exactly. The real problem is people with middle class values, regardless of color, don’t want to be lashed up to school systems dominated by the pathologies of the permanent underclass or which are focused on addressing those pathologies.

    There’s another issue at work in PG County schools that you’d have to live in the area to understand. Specifically, PG became the go- to place for middle class blacks fleeing the dysfunctional District in the early 70s-90s. The regrettable fact about their mindsets was that for donkey’s years before the District got home rule (i.e., black government that was completely dysfunctional but in a different way from that in which the white government had been dysfunctional), the only place blacks had to exercise their franchise was in school board elections. As a result the school board became a hotbed of politics that had little to do with education. It fell victim to every cock-and-bull fad that came down the pike and was literally not answerable for any results. It could however dictate policy and budgets. It swallowed tax dollars like candy, and still the dropout rates and the delinquency rates soared while graduation rates plummeted.

    Fast forward to black flight to PG county. What did the District ex-pats do? They set up a school board that mirrored the District’s. People do what they know. It was different from the way that the rest of Maryland’s counties operated, but the Maryland state government was completely intimidated into tolerating it by black lobbying and white liberal guilt. So the state watched as decade after decade the PG County school system screwed up one initiative after another, dropout rates soared while graduation rates plummeted. Finally within the last 10 years, amid much breast beating and hair pulling and shouts of racism and bigotry, the state finally wrested control of the PG County school system away from the runamuka school board and brought the country into alignment with the rest of the state.

    I applaud any effort by anybody to make public schools accountable, and perhaps even better, improve the system. If blacks have to flee the public schools, as they are doing nationwide, to force accountability and positive change, then I’m all for it.

    • So CAL Snowman

      Oh please, such a typical liberal attitude. It’s the “school’s” fault not the fault of the students. Well little missy I have news for you, the STUDENTS are the SCHOOL. A school will only produce results that mirror the abilities of its students. Back when PG country was majority White these same schools produced college ready students because the STUDENTS were college material. Get it?

      • Corlyss

        “little missy?”
        No revelation there. Not even a refutation. You over simplify. Of course the students had some role to play in the debacle, as did the highly racially charged parents. However, there were a few other factors involved in PG schools when it was an culturally homogenous agricultural backwater. Just for starters, they weren’t a political football subjected to every sociologically experimental whim to come down the pike. Explosive growth always brings political pressures few can predict except that it will be chaotic.

  • Change60

    By the time parents yank their kid(s) from public schools they are beyond angry. These people are putting large sums of their cash in tuition payments rather than new cars, vacations, clothes for themselves. Why do it? Because they understand that public schools can’t motivate enough teachers to do their job at a high level. Unions have gotten tenure for nearly all teachers with more than 5 years of teaching experience. A teacher can’t be fired for poor performance and can’t be motivated with higher pay to perform better as that is against union rules. Private schools can fire teachers as any private employee. They can also employ more incentives for their best teachers. Private schools can employ all the tricks to get better performance from their teachers. Public unions have used all their tricks to take away all the incentives to motivate a human being to excel.

    Basically once you go, you never go back.

  • David Govett

    As ever, liberals are stunned when people behave rationally, in their own self-interest.

    • larryj8

      Yes, how dare people look out for themselves instead of sacrifacing their kids for “the common good.” In this case, the common good is the teachers’ union.

  • wGraves

    How is it possible? Black parents want the same things for their children as white parents: A safe school, a controlled learning environment, and first class teachers. Who would have thought that they would react in exactly the same way as white parents to lack of the above: Run like heck to a better place no matter the cost. Now, will somebody please call Jesse and explain it to him.

    • 1stworlder

      They want the same thing as white parents, less unruly non-Asian minorities

    • race realist

      Yeah but, the only difference is, the white parents are labeled racist for doing it, while the black parents get a pass as usual, simply because the color of their skin ..

  • 500_lb_Gorrila

    If we did the right thing by outright banning all public employee unions, as they run counter to the interests of the public at large, then we’ll see an improvement in public education.

    • race realist

      No, doing the right thing would to be to, abolish the unconstitutional Board of education all together …

  • David Kutzler

    I lived in PG County in 1996-97 when I was stationed at Andrews AFB, MD. We elected to home school our 7-year-old. The elementary school that she would have gone to was in a neighborhood that I felt uncomfortable driving through, yet alone sending my daughter to alone on a bus. A friend pulled her middle-school child out of a PG school after a teacher threw a textbook at her son and rationalized it by proclaiming “What do you expect? Your people enslaved my people!”

  • crosspatch

    Meanwhile, the schools with the worst performance will get the greatest increases in funding along with raises for the teachers. The economic incentive is there to provide a poor education because the school’s employees benefit from doing so.

  • 1stworlder

    The black parents want the same thing white parents do, less troublemaking non-Asian minorities.
    Fortunately Cato did a study of St Louis when it got a blank check, outspending every public school in the nation per student to the point of having a 12-1 student teacher ratio. They discovered even all that couldn’t make a positive difference for non Asian minorities.

  • race realist

    LMFAO , even chocolates hate chocolates ..

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