A golden net

Omaha’s low-income children will have a privately funded safety net that will provide everything from high-quality preschools, mentoring and health services to a guarantee of money for college or technical training. Billionaire Warren Buffett’s daughter Susie and other citizens who became very wealthy by investing in Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway have pledged to fund the comprehensive effort.

Every year in the Omaha area, hundreds of kids – mostly the poorest – drop out of school into lives of dead-end jobs, financial struggle and worse.

But what if all those kids had had a preschool program that kept them from entering kindergarten months behind their classmates?

What if they’d had the guidance of mentors and tutors and access to after-school activities?

What if someone had intervened when they skipped classes or got into drugs or gangs?

What if those kids had known that if they made it through school, a scholarship would be waiting — transforming a college education from a lost cause to a guarantee?

How many could have been saved?

We’ll find out.

My father, born and raised in Omaha, turned down a chance to invest with Buffett when he was getting started. “No thanks, Warren,” he said. “I’ve got a family to support. I don’t have any extra money for investing.” Oh, well.

About Joanne


  1. test?

  2. As you say, we shall see. If it is adminstered well it should be successful. Past efforts along these lines have made a huge difference. The key seems to be breaking through the “you are wasting your time with education” meme and convincing the students in high poverty area that if they play the game according to the rules they can be successful.

  3. GradSchoolMom says:

    Oh if life were just this simple. Didn’t we think that welfare would have the same positive effect on the poor?

  4. mike from oregon says:

    The ‘trick’ is NOT a safety net (as I see it) – look around, there are thousands of schools that offer tutors free of charge. There are many cities that have someone to ‘intervene’ when a child goes bad. Does it help? Really?

    I see more and more kids who just don’t care. You can talk till you are blue in the face but they have not had to live with/deal with the consequences of their actions. Too many have had things given to them all their lives. When kids couldn’t go to berry and bean fields to work and earn money during the summer. When kids couldn’t do paper routes anymore. When money or clothes or cars or whatever was given to them – they didn’t learn the meaning of work, the ethic of work, the pride of earning your own money. The fact that more education means better work and more money.

    It’s a sorry time in this country’s history. It’s a time where too many kids are growing up thinking things are owed to them.

    You want to see what needs to be done? Read Joanne’s book, if you screw up in school the least you will get is having to the class/year over, the most you will get is get kicked out of school. Life is hard, so is school, part of what school is suppose to teach is that to be a success takes work. Too many public schools don’t do that anymore – in my mind it is in large part to the touchy-feely ways that liberals have instituted (the answer is incorrect but how do you FEEL about your answer).

  5. Eloquently put, Mike from Oregon, but are there really that many educators who are more interested in emotions than insight or knowledge? I know that such people exist. Some have defiled the instructional program at my school. They usually do not last. Students perceive them as weak and useless and punk them until they leave.

    Perhaps such so-called educators are more prevalent — or last longer — in suburban schools.

    Connecting with students on an affective level is not a substitute for teaching them skills and knowledge but it can be a tool, a very powerful one. Asking them “how do you FEEL?” is a very unimaginative approach. Getting them to identify with the characters in literature and with people throughout history, understanding a student’s frustration with mastering algebra, conveying to that student that you believe in him or her…. these are examples of how emotion can play an important part in education.

    As for the kids who “just don’t care,” I too have seen far too many of them, but the ones I see have not been overly indulged or indulged at all…. Many of them work part time or full time after school so they probably understand the work ethic and also the limitations of their employment options without a high school diploma.

    You are right that students need structure, they need consequences and rewards to help them acquire self-discipline. They appreciate when such structures exist. The teachers they like most are often those who are most demanding of them.