Moreover, residents of the wealthy communities get an additional and very important bonus: their children attend schools with other wealthy children. This is worth as much as or more than the money because the single most important determinant of students' academic achievement is not how much money is spent on their school, but the education level and socio-economic status of their parents. The schools serving the wealthiest students have the highest expectations, deepest cultural resources and strongest value placed on education. These schools get the best teachers, science labs, sports facilities and everything else. The students who go to these schools are the most cultured, read at home, have both parents at home, access private tutoring when they need it, and receive good health care and the strongest possible early childhood education.
In the schools serving the poor, the situation is reversed. You won't find Olympic-sized swimming pools or electron microscopes in these schools, but you will likely find students who will put down their peers who study hard and take tough courses, and teachers who assume that their students are not college-bound and thus give them a curriculum that is so unchallenging that not going to college is likely to be a self-fulfilling assumption.
EFFICIENCY & EQUALITY
In each of these two arenas, though for different reasons, the United States is now differentiating services by social class, providing separate services for each class and often making new and finely graded distinctions among social classes. In each case, the result has been the development of systems that are not merely grossly unfair, but massively inefficient. That might be simply a political matter, except that, when we compare the performance of these systems to their counterparts in other developed countries, we see that they are able to provide far better services to much larger fractions of their populations at substantially lower costs.
In education, just as in health care, the United States turns out to have the highest cost system in the developed world, on a cost-per-client basis, save only for Luxembourg. Here, too, the performance of the system overall, against every reasonable metric, is mediocre;. The defenders of the system say that, if we just overlook the poorest, the system is among the best in the world, but here, too, the statistics say otherwise--the system is among the best only for the wealthiest.
The school boards, administration, voters, property owners and real estate agents in the wealthiest communities use their enormous political influence in state legislatures to make sure that this system is not changed in any important way. They use the same influence with their state delegation to Congress for the same purpose, even making sure that wealthy districts get their "fair" share of the funds meant for assisting districts in predominantly poor communities.