Education Reform

Steven Singer: Why Does Pittsburgh Media Treat Rightwing Propaganda as Real News?

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Steven Singer identifies a common problem that occurs in newspapers, magazines, radio, and on television. The media likes bad news stories about the public schools (wasteful, inefficient, “failing”). Worse, they take seriously every piece of rightwing propaganda and report it as news.

He gives the latest example: Pittsburgh media printed summaries of a report funded by The Commonwealth Fund, asserting that the public schools in Pennsylvania are flush with cash but want to raise taxes to get more than they need. Singer points out that the money for pandemic aid can’t be used to plug budget holes (that is illegal) and Pennsylvania has one of the worst-funded public school systems in the nation.

He begins:

The Commonwealth Foundation is not a reliable news source

 
It’s a right wing propaganda network that provides the motivation behind American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) sponsored bills.  

 
ALEC writes the laws. The Commonwealth Foundation justifies them. And GOP lawmakers pass them (often with help from neoliberal Democrats). 

 
So why are otherwise reputable Pittsburgh television and radio stations running stories based on Commonwealth Foundation reports? …

And he adds:

A real investigative journalist might have just walked into an inner city school to check it out. She would have seen that many schools are literally falling apart.  

 
Or she could look up actual statistics. A full 35 states provide less overall state funding for education today than they did in 2008. Most states still haven’t recovered from George W. Bush’s Great Recession and the subsequent state and local budget cuts it caused. And schools in 27 of those states actually saw per pupil funding fall even further.  

 
Moreover, Pennsylvania is one of the worst. The state government pays only 38% of the cost to educate children leaving the majority up to local communities to make up the difference.  That’s the 46th lowest in the country. The national average is 51%. 

 
In fact, our funding inequality is the worst in the nation. According to the U.S. Department of Education, poor schools in the Commonwealth spend 33 percent less on their students than rich ones. 

 
These are the reasons why the parents of six school children, six school districts, the NAACP and a rural schools group are suing the state over education funding.  

 
Not because public schools are “flush with cash” – a characterization right out of the mouth of Donald Trump. 

However, the Commonwealth Foundation plays with the numbers to mask this reality.

 

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