Why Are they Killing Public Schools?

March 31st, 2011  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  6 Comments

These days, they'll be going to different schools and won't have to meet anyway. Thanks, GOP

For all New York families who calved in 2006–and therefore have a kindergarten-aged child–this is notification week for public kindergarten.

This is not as easy as just signing up for your local, zoned school. Either the school down the block has been totally abandoned and fallen into disgrace, or there are lotteries and waiting lists and other barriers to entry. There doesn’t seem to be much in between.

We live in a zone where the school is actually pretty good. Therefore, they have waiting lists. And although those waiting lists usually thin out by mid-summer (way past the point when everyone else has found a school), we still had no guarantees. There is no right to be served by your local kindergarten in New York.

That is why we were a little freaked with a thin letter arrived from the Kindergarten–we’d been subconsciously in college admissions mode, where thin envelopes mean rejection, fat ones mean acceptance. But it turns out the one simple thing about Kindergarten admissions in New York is the acceptance letter: “Your child has been offered a Kindergarten placement in our school, for the 2011-2012 school year.”


That means that, regardless of what happens with Gifted or Talented, or with PS333, where we lost the lottery and are on a waitlist for a second lottery, Dalia has a school to go to next year. And it is, miracle of miracles, the school down the street.

But then again: what kind of school will it be? What kind of schools will any of them be? Budget cuts and public scorn are slashing schools in NYC and elsewhere and salting the wounds. The enemies of public education are on the march, and winning battle after battle. As Sam Dillon reported in the Times today:

School authorities across the nation are warning thousands of teachers that they could lose their jobs in June, raising the possibility that America’s public schools may see the most extensive layoffs of their teaching staffs in decades.

I don’t believe in private education. I don’t believe in Biblical education. I don’t believe in home schooling or in boarding schools. I don’t believe in the Upper West Side Success Academy, or whatever the hell that charter school with the endless marketing budget is called.

I believe in the school on your street being the best possible school it can be. I believe it should have the support and love and money of the community. That they should take pride in the place and send their kids there instead of this gutless retreating from public school at the first signs of complications.

The nostalgia wing of the conservative movement has a point: there was a simpler time in this country, and (some) things were simply better. Our resolve to support our community’s public schools was one of those things. So why is that same movement trying to dismantle everything Norman Rockwell ever knew about Americans, community, and schooling?


  1. Carly says:

    March 31st, 2011at 11:19 am(#)

    Good question. But the movement is not conservative alone. If it were, then it would be easier to point to the whole ‘dismantle/underfund entire government aside from military’ theory. It is an odd alliance that also includes erstwhile progressives who 1) do not send their own children to public school; 2) have not taught and have rarely been inside a public school; 3) are disillusioned with unions; 4) like to say “standards” and “rigor” but do not apply the definitions they come up with for other people’s children to their own (ie, “rigor” for poor children means passing a lot of questionable tests, while “rigor” for upper-middle-class ones means an ability to think critically, conduct interdisciplinary research, sustain a wide exposure to culture, and synthesize multiple inputs in original ways).

    I’m not sure why this is, but I definitely see the influence of money. The education market is huge, as you know. Yesterday’s NYT article pointed to the millions being thrown at online learning within the DOE. I think as anyone who has taken an online class knows, they are vastly inferior to the collision of ideas and kinds of support that the classroom provides.

  2. dadwagon says:

    March 31st, 2011at 11:57 am(#)

    Well put, Carly. –theodore.

  3. TechyDad says:

    March 31st, 2011at 12:29 pm(#)

    My wife and I are big fans of public school but unfortunately we’ve been looking at moving our oldest son to a private school. Basically, the public school has failed him in every way. Every time we try to talk to them about issues we’re having, they drag their feet or say one thing and provide documentation that says something completely different or refuse to take any action at all. This has been going on for years and has been getting worse and worse.

    Sadly, the school really isn’t to blame. Our area has become infested with Charter schools. Now, I’m sure charter schools have their place, but in our area more and more keep popping up. The ones that are open aren’t meeting their educational metrics, yet they divert (already limited) funding from the public schools. The public schools get worse and the cry goes out to open more charter schools. Rinse, repeat, watch the public school system go down the drain.

    I would love nothing more than to keep my son in his current school and see him go through the public school system like I did, but I have to weigh my support for public schools against my feeling that he isn’t getting a good education at that school. It’s a difficult decision to make.

  4. Carly says:

    March 31st, 2011at 12:59 pm(#)

    I agree TechyDad, it doesn’t make sense to send your kid to a bad school on principle, and you actually tried the school out. There are larger systemic issues at play (such as, to name just a few, No Child Left Behind and legal mandates that push principals to encourage teaching to the test, neighborhood economic segregation, class-based self-selection–usually out of the system–disguised as ‘choice,’ and for-profit investors in charters and school management companies), which you point to in your observation about charters.

  5. Charles says:

    March 31st, 2011at 4:44 pm(#)

    Carly, I have to jump in here quickly to challenge the notion that investment in technology and the profit motive are the roots of what ails public education. Not only are online courses not, by definition “vastly inferior”, but the total lack of investment in REAL innovation in American education is an enormous part of the challenge we are currently suffering through. Technology has impacted nearly every single facet of our lives…almost NOTHING in medicine, communication, retail, etc would be recognizable today to someone stepping out the 18th century, but they would see upon examination of the typical classroom that we haven’t changed much of anything there. In the part of our lives that is arguably most important (with all due deference to the life-saving thing they do in Medicine), that lack of investment in innovation is unforgivable. That doesn’t mean technology, or online classes, are a silver bullet, but to dismiss technology as having no chance to positively impact public education seems equally ludicrous. The real problem is that where private capital has been put to work, it has too often been put to work in creating for-profit derivatives of the exact same models that are already failing–see the proliferation of undifferentiated, unimproved charter schools. The problem isn’t the profit motive, or the desire to invest in innovative ways of changing the model…the problem shows up when privatization in and of itself is as seen as a solution. Great teachers using fantastic tools (technological or otherwise), will always outperform great teachers using poor tools. And the reality is that no school systems have the financial wherewithal to invest in innovation to drive the creation of new, fantastic tools. Thats where private capital can be put to work as an important part of the solution
    Full disclosure: I have just left a for-profit education company that has invested in creating wholesale alternatives to traditional schools, and am starting a company that will be building technology tools to help publicly funded institutions do a better job of fulfilling their mission and mandate.


    Punk Rock Dad: Q&A with Tony Adolescent of "The Other F-Word" - TIME Healthland

Leave a Response


Recent Comments

  • Dee: As one of the impressed moms there last night, and also because my kid ate 3 bowls of that bolognese, thanks for...
  • Drew Wallner via Facebook: I’m totally making this when we get back from holiday travel, I even just got a...
  • Matt: Whoops! Just put that back in. The recipe editor has been fired.
  • Ed Lilly: Looks great – thanks for posting! One question – you did not specify putting the meat back into...
  • Maks: I’m against baby yoga for sure, but want to say something regarding that author is a little wild about...

DadWagon Reads!