During the eight years I served as chancellor of New York City’s public schools, the naysayers and the apologists for the status quo kept telling me “we’ll never fix education in America until we fix poverty.”
I always thought they had it backward, that “we’ll never fix poverty until we fix education.” Let me be clear. Poverty matters: Its debilitating psychological and physical effects often make it much harder to successfully educate kids who grow up in challenged environments. And we should do everything we can to ameliorate the effects of poverty by giving kids and families the support they need. But that said, I remain convinced that the best cure for poverty is a good education.
And I’m equally convinced that pointing to poverty as an excuse for why we fail to properly educate poor kids only serves to condemn more of them to lives of poverty.