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Tom Corcoran, the education advisor to New Jersey Governor James Florio, spoke at the University Saturday, pointing out inequities in the way the public education system works. The lecture was part of a day-long conference held in Stiteler Hall titled "Financing Public Education" and attended by professional educators and administrators from around the country. "Everyone here has a chance to make something of themselves," Corcoran said, describing the American ideal, but he noted that the public education system "is not keeping faith with the national promise." He went on to say that one of the main reasons for the lack of opportunity is the inadequate education many children receive. He said that "equal opportunity" is not a reality because the rich people can afford to give their children a better chance than the poor by living in more affluent school districts with better public education systems. The problem, Corcoran said, "isn't just an urban issue," but a rural problem as well. He said that some school districts in New Jersey spend $14,000 annually per student, while others spend only $5,000. He said that while spending more money in poorer districts is not the only way to solve the inequities that exist in education, "people who say money isn't the answer usually have a lot of it." Some of the solutions that he suggested to make the system more equitable included reallocating resources, putting more emphasis on early education of children, and a developing a more structured curriculum. Corcoran also discussed the downside of giving individual schools more control over how they are run, saying that giving each school such power "could be a case of collective ignorance." That stance set off the most reaction in the crowd, which consisted of about 50 people, including administrators, lawyers and teachers involved in the field of education. Vivien Hassory, a middle school teacher in Philadelphia, said that although she found the speech informative, she said it must be realized that "all programs are not effective in all schools." Several educators who spoke after Corcoran disputed his proposed solutions, especially his belief that resources have to be taken away from richer districts and given to poorer districts to offset inequities. Willam Hartman, professor of education policy and finance at Pennsylvania State University, said one of the reasons that affluent school districts pay more for students is that teachers salaries must be higher to combat the high cost of living in those areas. Almost all in attendance agreed that the education system in the U.S. must change. Marget Thomas, an administrator in the Radnor district who attended the conference, said Corcoran's ideas were good but "impractical," adding that she didn't think the changes could actually be brought about.

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