Friday, December 9, 2016

School Scope: Parent Objects to My Position on School Choice

Published Dec. 9, 2016 in The WAVE,

School Scope: Parent Objects to My Position on School Choice
By Norm Scott

The WAVE received a letter commenting on my column (Vouchers are Coming, Vouchers are Coming!)  link - regarding the privatization agenda of Donald Trump and his proposed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. The author, a public school parent, wrote, “If you publish my remarks please omit my name to protect my daughter.” Since The WAVE doesn’t print anonymous letters, I’m using this column to print the letter here. The facts stated in the letter about school performance have not been verified since we do not know what school his daughter attends. I understand the position of a parent who has a negative view of the zoned school his child attends and feels vouchers and charters and religious schools are better options and calls for the oft-misused “choice” as an answer. The letter also touches on a number of other issues, including my attack on Trump education secretary Betsy DeVos – too many to respond in one column. So I will do a series of responses over the next few columns.

For today I’ll just say there is a direct correlation between student performance and family economic means, no matter what the school. Thus a school with high numbers of students with high poverty levels will look bad statistically even if per student spending looks high on paper. The average is often bumped up by the high costs of addressing special needs students. Here is a quick breakdown of average costs per student in the NYC schools.

District Name: New York City Department Of Education
Instructional Costs per Student: $16,177, 80%
Instructional Salaries per Student:$8,677, 43%
Instructional Employee Benefits per Student:$4,792, 24%
Other Instructional per Student: $2,708, 13%
Support Services Costs per Student: $4,099, 20%
Total Instructional & Support Costs per Student: $20,276
- See more at:

The ultimate aim of putting schools in the hands of privatizers is to lower the costs of the teaching staff. In one public school in Brooklyn co-occupied by Eva Moskowitz’  Success Academy charter chain, which has 40 schools in the city only one teacher remains after 3 years. How good an idea is it to have massive teacher churn with inexperienced and often non-certified and untrained teachers? Taking money out of public schools to give vouchers to people to go to religious schools on a national level would be a massive violation of the separation of church and state that was one of the basics of the establishment of this nation, where many settlers were running away from religious persecution and didn’t want to see the state playing any official role.
Check out a piece written by Howard Schwach, former WAVE editor and founder of this School Scope column, published at his On Rockaway web site where he touches on democracy and public schools. “I have often written that public education is the touchstone of our democracy. If kids or all races and religions are not brought together for their school years, they will never understand each other and democracy will suffer. There is a broad consensus in America that public schools must be protected, despite the fact that many are struggling to fulfill their core mission of educating all children.” Howie also delves into Betsy DeVos’ path of destruction which has left Michigan schools in disarray:

Here is the parent’s letter – I hope to have some more dialogue with him and he’s welcome to contact me for a chat.

Let's Try School Choice
“Mr. Scott’s recent editorial objected to school vouchers because he believes it will create a withering away of our public education and our democracy.  I hate to break this to him, but our public education is already broken and our representative republic is in danger.  New York City spends over $23,000 per student per year, and yet my daughter’s zoned school has a passing rate of 11% in English and 7% in math on the statewide exams.  At our nearest high school, only 11% of the students graduate college-ready.  I have concluded that too often the education bureaucracy is more interested in the needs of the people that work for the institution than helping children.  This is a cruel disservice to the taxpayer, country, and most importantly to our children.

Too often quality public education in our country is dependent on the ability to live in affluent communities.  I see too many parents take on too much debt to live near a quality school.  I see too many working poor parents spend too much precious money on prep programs hoping to get their children into quality schools.  Every child in the United States deserves an opportunity to be educated to their abilities regardless of their parent’s income.

Ad Hominem attacks on the Secretary of Education nominee, attacking people’s motives for their votes, attacking private schools, or attacking religious schools does not help your argument.  The harsh reality is our current education system is failing and major changes are needed. I can only conclude that this systematic failure requires a complete overhaul of our education system.  Expanding school choice is best way to reach children of all socio-economic levels and is the most efficient way to realign our education system to the needs of the actual students.  Charter schools and vouchers need to be tried and, where successful, should be built upon and expanded.”

Norm spews ad Hominem attacks daily at

1 comment:

  1. Thank You for taking the time to respond to my email and publishing it in the Wave newspaper and on your blog. I find it difficult to articulate my complete reasoning on how to reform our educational to help all children in the space of short newspaper column. I imagine you do as well. I look forward to reading your response over the next few columns.
    Currently my job, family, and the holiday season in general prevent me from writing a complete dissertation on how I would reform our educational system. Perhaps we will have an opportunity to meet sometime in January to talk.
    One quick note to assist you. The schools I referenced were the R Vernam school (Q042) and Rockaway Park high School (Q324). I pulled the information from the NYC school website.
    I gather from your blog you are not a fan of school choice including charters and vouchers. What I would really like to know is, are you satisfied with the current state of public education (outside of the charter system) in NYC? If not, how would you improve the system? If you could discuss in your column those questions I would be most grateful.


Comments are welcome. Irrelevant and abusive comments will be deleted, as will all commercial links. Comment moderation is on, so if your comment does not appear it is because I have not been at my computer (I do not do cell phone moderating). Or because your comment is irrelevant or idiotic.