Friday, October 9, 2009

The Cartel opens in theaters

The Cartel, a documentary that asks what Americans are getting for their massive financial investment in public education, opens in theaters tonight across New Jersey, a state that provides the film with a dramatic illustration of the chasm between funding and performance. The Cartel has already won a number of awards at regional film festivals, including two audience choice awards.

The film's website sets out the crisis, defined by disastrous educational statistics:

The conventional wisdom says that our schools could be dramatically improved with better funding. If we would only “invest in education,” the argument goes, our children would have a better future—particularly in urban areas, where leaky roofs, under-qualified teachers, and outdated textbooks are all too common.

And so the last few decades have brought an explosion of education spending, enthusiastically approved by local school boards and state legislatures and generally supported by taxpayers. That’s the moral cover under which our public school system wastes and steals billions of dollars every year.

New Jersey offers a dramatic instance of this corruption and improvidence.... Spending can exceed $400,000 per classroom, and yet only 39 percent of the state’s eighth-graders are proficient or advanced readers, and only 40 percent of its eighth-graders are proficient or advanced in math.... And the problem is not one of inadequate funding: Some of the worst schools receive—and squander—the most money.

This costly, unconscionable failure forms the subject of The Cartel.

You can sign up for news of future screenings and express interest in having the film shown near you on

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