Sunday, July 5, 2015

Is the Public School System Toast? - Norm in the Wave

My final School Scope column of the school year for The Wave.

Is the Public School System Toast?

I hate to close the school year on a down note, but the long-term prospects for the survival of publicly run and managed urban public school systems is not good. Oh it will not happen overnight but the concept of putting the education of our nation’s students in the hands of private interests is trending up. The new state law was a win-win for the charter lobby, more non-unionized charters under private management, charters increasingly allowed to cream the highest performing kids or push out those not performing. And they will be allowed even more uncertified and unqualified teachers, even allowing up to 15% of the students to come from the faculty – a major incentive to keep teachers from jumping off the charter ship due to lousy working conditions – just check the attrition rate in charter, not only of the kids, but the teachers too. Yes, Virginia, having unionized teachers in schools actually protects kids in addition to teachers.

But not all the blame must go to the privatizers. Public schools have been run in an authoritarian top-down manner forever, leaving teachers and parents out of the loop in terms of essential decision making. Giving the mayor control only makes the situation worse.  Thus the Cuomo chop at de Blasio by giving him only one year of control is not a bad thing. The privatizers loved mayoral control under Bloomberg. Not so much under deB. But they are just waiting for deB to be gone to go back to it full blast. It is easy to privatize when the mayor is running the system in ways that undermine public education and cause the public to lose confidence in the schools and clamor for charters or vouchers or ed tax credits.

Donavan Richards pointed out that Bloomberg had starved the public schools and de Blasio was attempting to reverse course at the recent meeting with parents from Arverne-by-the sea who were clambering for a charter school of their own so their kids would not have to go to the Hammel Houses loaded PS 193. That meeting was a stark reminder of how we are headed for a dual system. One parent told me – “let the Hammels have their school.” When I suggested that if the ABTS people put their kids in that school it would turn it around. “Why should I have to sacrifice to help people who won’t help themselves,” she replied. I get that people should not feel they are sacrificing their kids.

But the idea of schools for different students was the essence of segregation in the south. Now we have social/economic segregation.

Strong neighborhood public schools are the essence of a strong democratic society. We are heading in the other direction.

Norm blogs at

1 comment:

  1. My children all went to P.S. 183 and got a very good education. In fact, I went there many years ago for kindergarten. It's a good school.


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