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?