Warranting Failure: The "System" That Breeds Poverty and Starves Public Schools

Kern Alexander, Richard G. Salmon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The inscription on the internal pedestal of the Statue of Liberty proclaiming "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses" today is an ideal of another age. Compared with those of other developing countries, U.S. poverty rates are extraordinarily high, as are the odds of remaining in poverty intergenerationally. No longer do immigrants from Europe want to come to America; the social and economic policies of their countries are superior, their public schools are better funded, and their overall standard of living is higher. The immigrants who come in great numbers are from countries even poorer than the United States. The weight of poverty in America places a heavy burden on public schools as the most important agents of poverty remediation. The results of this burden are manifested in a prevailing view that the public schools are failed institutions. Taken alone, international test comparisons appear to show that America's public schools are inefficient and unsuccessful, yet such comparisons are misleading. This article clarifies the factors that must be considered in viewing the totality of effort and the effect of comparative international educational performance. The principal factor is the level of child poverty in the United States compared with other developed countries. The "system" in the United States breeds poverty, with little hope of escape. There is little reason to believe that children in poverty today can expect a better tomorrow.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-221
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Education Finance
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Finance
  • Public Administration


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