Gary Rubinstein ponders the familiar phrases “poverty is not destiny” and “poverty is not an excuse.”

He understands that many poor students succeed in school, but most don’t.

The typical claim of the “reform” movement is that every student, regardless of poverty, would perform at high levels of proficiency if their teacher has high expectations or if they attended a “no-excuses” charter school.

Gary suggests it might be more fruitful to ask whether insufficient resources are destiny.

He writes:

A suburban school where the students don’t have to contend with so many out of school factors might not need very many resources for the majority of the students to be ‘college bound’ (assuming, for now, that this is a good goal to have). A school with a lot of poor students, though, might require extensive resources in order to get the majority of their students college bound. They might need an army of nurses, social workers, mental health experts, and more. Either school if not provided with sufficient resources is going to ‘fail’ to get the students to be college bound. But the suburban school, not needing as many resources, is likely to have a sufficient amount, while the urban school, since it needs more, is unlikely to get the resources it needs.

Reformers like to point to schools like KIPP or Eva Moskowitz’s charters to say that they don’t spend more than regular public schools.

But, says Gary, that’s not true. They do spend more, and they don’t have to accept every student who walks in the door, and they do have higher attrition rates than public schools.

Maybe we have to change our spending priorities if we want to be sure that “poverty is not destiny.”