It’s an angry world: Trump tweets, comedians ridicule, the Congress snarls, the nation appears incredibly divided by gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, geography, and the one acceptable reason, sports team preferences. The motto of the press, “if it bleeds it leads,” and even the noble New York Times, “All the news that fits, we print.”
The arena of education is no different: for-profit, online charter schools, vouchers, the seemingly never-ending attacks on public schools and teachers, and, of course, teacher unions. The billionaires get richer and use their wealth to influence school board elections and elect anti-public school legislators.
That is: except in New York City!
A mayor who has actually placed education at the top of his agenda – not only in words but in deeds. He has pumped far more dollars into the school system than any predecessor: pre-kindergarten for every four year old in the city, and, in September, pre-school for three year olds in the two poorest districts. Instead of closing struggling schools, the ninety or so Renewal Schools, the mayor has injected significant funding, and merged instead of closed a number of the lowest performing schools. Yes, there are no immediate signs of improvement; however, it takes years to measure outputs in schools.
Attack after attack, led by the New York Post and charter school supporters has been trashed by a recent study. In spite of a dozen years of unceasing criticism by Bloomberg/Klein and so-called reformers, our public schools have done a superb job,
The most comprehensive study of college graduates yet conducted, based on millions of anonymous tax filings and financial-aid records … the study tracked students from nearly every college in the country (including those who failed to graduate), measuring their earnings years after they left campus …
To take just one encouraging statistic: At City College, in Manhattan, 76 percent of students who enrolled in the late 1990s and came from families in the bottom fifth of the income distribution have ended up in the top three-fifths of the distribution. These students entered college poor. They left on their way to the middle class and often the upper middle class.
Read entire study here.
Students, almost all graduates from public high schools before the massive school closings by the Bloomberg/Klein administration were at the top of the nation in upward mobility. Public schools and public colleges changes lives. Yes, we can gloat!
For twenty years mayors, Giuliani and Bloomberg, were at war with fellow New Yorkers. Hundreds of thousands of stop-and frisk interventions, almost all New Yorkers of color, arresting people for smoking joints in public, incarcerating people who couldn’t make bail for minor offenses; de Blasio was reviled when he sharply reduced stop and frisk as well as summons instead of arrests for minor offenses, and, surprise – surprise, crime continued to spiral downwards. Prison and jail populations declined; the naysayers who predicted the worst, seemed disappointed.
School suspensions are also sharply down without an discernable increase in school conduct (See an opposing opinion here).
We may not agree with de Blasio all the time; however, he has only token opposition in the September primary and his Republican November opponent appears to be a virtually unknown Assembly member who is an avid Trump supporter.
We love Bill.
Carmen Farina, the Chancellor, the leader of the school system has been a teacher, principal and superintendent in New York City. We feel comfortable with Carmen. She returned the city to a local superintendent system with geographic support centers and she interacts with teachers on an almost daily basis. Again, we may not agree on this policy or that policy; however, when we compare her to Joel Klein, a self-described “disrupter” or Dennis Walcott, sadly, a Klein clone and place-keeper, she shines.
Over a hundred PROSE schools, schools encouraged to “bend the rules,” either Department rules or contract clauses, to try another approach. Principal/teacher collaboration are a crucial component of the Farina view of schooling.
We love Carmen.
And loving each other is perhaps the only love we’ll get ….
Dismal clouds hover on the horizon: drastic budget cuts, a Secretary of Education committed to charter schools and vouchers in lieu of public schools, a “coup” that placed another arch conservative on the Supreme Court, a governor leaning towards charter schools, our undocumented students faced with being yanked from their homes, health plans in jeopardy and the possibility of a state constitutional convention that could decimate public employees pensions. We can hear the thunder rumbling.
I know folks will say, “Don’t be silly. both de Blasio and Farina are far, far from loveable.” Sadly, I am reminded of how progressives self-destructed in November. Too many Bernie supporters stayed on the sidelines or decided to cast a protest vote for Jill Stein. Maybe Comey colluded with the Republicans to bring down Hillary and maybe Hillary could have run a better campaign.
We forgot: If we don’t hang together we will definitely hang separately.
I’ve been on the front lines of politics all my adult life, I argued, advocated and organized for my candidate, and, if the “other guy or gal” won the primary or received the nomination I supported them.
As the clouds swirl and the thunder rumbles we should all hug Bill and Carmen