Just because it is summer doesn’t mean that things aren’t happening in local school districts. In Chicago, for instance, teachers and their elected officials are headed for a showdown. Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushes to extend the school day and school year, while stepping away from previous promises of a pay boost. The Chicago Federation of Teachers responds in kind with the authorization for a city-wide strike.
Teachers unions, however, have painted themselves into a corner by insisting that spending is the best predictor of educational performance — increase financial inputs and cognitive outputs will rise. In the past 50 years, real per pupil spending nationwide has tripled and the number of pupils per teacher has declined by a third, yet educational attainments have fallen. Abundant data demonstrate that the vast majority of differences in schools’ performances can be explained by qualities of the families from which the children come to school: the amount of homework done at home, the quantity and quality of reading material in the home, the amount of television watched in the home and, the most important variable, the number of parents in the home. In Chicago, 84 percent of African American children and 57 percent of Hispanic children are born to unmarried women.