Thursday, May 26, 2005

"You Can't Solve Their Problems by Throwing Money at Them"

The short, blonde haired woman was as loud as she was animated.
"Those kids have too many problems. The public schools can't begin to address their issues. You won't solve any of them by throwing money at the schools. Cleveland already spends more money per pupil than the suburban districts."

About six participants in the Case University's REI event at the Ritz Carlton Hotel stood around the professor from Cleveland State as he wrote notes upon the large pad of white paper hanging from the easel. The break-out group was supposed to be discussing ways that Cleveland State University might help to raise the graduation rate for the Cleveland schools. What ensued was a gripe session full of misconceptions about the school district. I was the only District employee in the group, and although I was the expert, each time I tried to offer an insight, I was interrupted with an arguement. It was soon obvious, some of these folks had no interest in the facts; what they were looking for were excuses. Excuses to justify doing nothing. Excuses to justify paying nothing.
Excuses are so much easier to make than progress.

I was still annoyed when I came home in the afternoon. I sat down at my computer to catch up on my mail and the news of the day. On a roll,I responded to a query in George Nemeth's blog, Brewed Fresh Daily

"No one wanted to pick up the race question...
Is that because it's not an issue?"

The race issue in Greater Cleveland has morphed. We have become a region of 'Haves' and 'Have-nots'.
The 'Haves' look upon the 'Have-nots' as society's baggage-- somehow responsible for their own plight. They are uncomfortable, if not fearful, in the neighborhoods of the poor. The children of the 'Have-nots' are overwhelmingly needy. "You can't solve their problems by throwing money at them." Besides, it is easier to build "Quality Places" than quality people

What do you think?


derek said...

I never have anything to say so...

Just kidding! It was, again, a pleasure to meet you. I noticed that the race question never got ran with either. One think that I think that needs to happen to promote racial understanding is honest dialogue about race and I would like to think Cleveland folk can do it.

We are all connected by a chain. One reason why I think Cleveland hasn't succeeded because of how it treats its' neediest of the have-nots. As you said, they are treated like burdens, not people with solvable problems that may or may not be of their own doing. What matters is, what are those with the means of solving the problems doing. It's not just the individual and it's not just the's more often a little (or a lot) of both.

Sandy Kristin Piderit said...

Of course we can solve some of their problems with money! Like the problems with not having enough textbooks to be allowed to take any home... or having class sizes approaching 50 in some high schools... those are definitely problems that can be solved with money!

How unfortunate. Did this loud little lady propose any solutions, or just shoot down the suggestions made by others?

Sandy Kristin Piderit said...

I also wanted to say that Tim Russo called me recently on conflating the racism issue with the poverty issue, and I think he did so fairly. The divide between haves and have nots is an important one to span, but fixing it may not make the racism issue disappear. There are plenty of white poor people in Cleveland, and a sizeable Black and Hispanic middle class, but even middle- and upper-class Blacks and Hispanics confront racism, and that's a problem that's worth addressing as well.

marybeth said...

I checked the comments that you linked to on your site. I did not mean to imply that racism is not a problem. Insults, degradation, distrust, and indeed, hatred are definitely issues that erode relationships in our community. Yet somehow offending the pride of a PHD student at Case or hurting the feelings of minority suburbanites seem to pale in comparison to the apathy and even disdain that this community has shown toward the poor of all races residing in the inner-city. The divide between the classes continues to grow. Twenty-five years ago at Ohio University, my population geography professor warned us about the shrinking American middle-class and the development of a two-tiered society. I wonder if I am witnessing the realization of that prediction.

Sandy Kristin Piderit said...


we agree -- they're both important problems worth solving. I think the school system problem is more urgent... although eliminating racism may actually take longer, because I think fewer people are even willing to admit that it's a problem.

Anonymous said...

When you look at the obstacles that present themselves to educators in Urban setting, its rediculous especially in Cleveland. In the Cleveland School District's situation, there are some many unique diverse racial makeups and socio-ecomonomical backgrounds. If an educator wants to teach in this district, they have to understand the nature of the different cultures/ethnicities that they are teaching. Otherwise, they will have a hell of a hard time and need to look for a job in the suburbs.

As for the funding issues, it moreless boils down to Central Adminerstaration than the state. This district not only recieves the most money in the state but also recieves the most corporates grants. However, if you were to walk into a building like Collinwood or Hamilton, you would wonder where the hell is the money going.

Moreless, there needs to be some reorganization and oversight before any additional funding should be granted. It's tragic when you have to see 50 students to room with no books in a room near a hallway that is unswept.

derek said...

we agree -- they're both important problems worth solving. I think the school system problem is more urgent...

They are interconnected. Solving one or the other isn't really an option. Some of the district's problems arise from racism. Why do you think that (black and white)parents yanked their kids out of Cleveland Public? Because they didn't want to send their kids to the "other" side of town. But, the racist message was even worse. Cleveland Public basically said "We don't think we should make the schools on the east side better. We will just make everybody spend 6 years in the crappy east side schools." Racism was a problem but the bigger problem was underfunding schools in black neighborhoods...which STILL hasn't been solved. Now, ALL of the schools are underfunded.

Who thought it would get worse in 28 years? MB's prof did.

Anonymous said...


I agree with you that one of the major sources of the problems with the district is racism. However, I still feel reorganization all the way down from the Mayor's Office to the Central Adminerstration needs to take place before the needs of Cleveland's Children is put first.

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