Gaming the college admissions system and defunding K-12 public education

Letters to the editor

3/22/2019, 6 a.m.
Re “Stand by your plan: Mayor Levar M. Stoney pushes his proposed tax hikes despite opposition and criticism” and “Fallout ...

Re “Stand by your plan: Mayor Levar M. Stoney pushes his proposed tax hikes despite opposition and criticism” and “Fallout continues from college admissions scandal,” Free Press March 14-16 edition:

The indictment of 50 people in a fraudulent scheme to gain admission to elite universities and colleges for already privileged children exposes an appalling but unsurprising reality. 

This gaming of the system is noteworthy only for its illegality. Admission to college is laden with licit practices that tip the scaled toward the affluent and connected — big-dollar donations, legacies, country club sports, “needs aware” policies prioritizing ability to pay and a testing regime favoring students from a narrow socioeconomic milieu. These practices considered in toto belie the maundering about these institutions as meritocracies.

The brouhaha over cheating unfortunately obscures a greater scandal — the underfunding and even defunding of public education at every level, from preschool through college. 

It was my personal good fortune to be among the final cohorts of the baby boom, a birthright that enabled me to graduate from a consolidated county public high school, complete a bachelor’s and two graduate degrees at public land-grant universities and emerge with debt amounting to a used-car loan. 

An aspiring student, even one wishing to attend a public institution, now faces debt so ruinous that it seems tantamount to indentured servitude. This circumstance is the product of skewed social priorities and flawed political decisions made across decades. 

Mayor Levar M. Stoney deserves encouragement in his resolve to boost taxes to fund Richmond’s schools adequately. This is a crucial initiative in a city and Commonwealth with a checkered history with respect to public education. 

The feet of every candidate for local, state or federal office should be held to the fire on educational policy in the 2019 and 2020 elections.

The U.S. attorney prosecuting the cheating scandal characterized the crime as “zero sum.” This is accurate in the sense that a qualified student was denied a spot at an elite institution whenever another was admitted fraudulently. However, the gravity of this crime pales alongside the denial to a generation of the option of a decent, affordable public education.