Why aren't public school parents protesting?
This was written by Rebecca Levey, a writer who maintains a blog called Beccarama. She has written for the Silicon Valley Moms Group, and her posts have been nationally syndicated by McClatchy/Tribune and appeared online in publications including the Miami Herald and The Chicago Sun Times. She is part of the Yahoo! Mother Board, a community of over 50 mom-bloggers, and is the social media editor for Mom Blog Magazine, the latest e-publication from the Mom Bloggers Club. She also does a weekly podcast called the Blogging Angels with three co-hosts to discuss women and social media. A longer version of this post appeared on Beccarama.
By Rebecca Levey
Why aren’t parents rioting in the streets?
This is the question an educator asked me Tuesday. A private school educator in New York City.
We were among over 200 people invited to Barry Diller’s IAC headquarters in Chelsea to have lunch and listen to the presentation for a brand new private school in Manhattan called Avenues -- The World School. I wasn’t invited to this lunch as an NYC blogger, I was invited as the co-president of the Parents’ Association of my daughters’ New York City public school and went there with my co-president.
It’s hard to explain this sort of event to people who have never been to a New York City media and money-filled event. This was not red carpet, this was not celebrity; this was the kind of event that shows you where real power lies in this world. Money. Bankers, publishers and more bankers. I haven’t been to something like this in more than 10 years, when I worked for a billionaire family here in New York City.
It made me sad. Does that sound strange? Here I was at an event where some of the top educators in the city were pitching their new school. I was sitting at a table with the new head of the lower school and the head of the entire school. These are serious people who have spent their life in education – in private, uber-privileged education.
Joel Klein, the city's ex-schools chancellor, was there too, and all I could think was that he’s got some nerve. You see, part of this school’s pitch was to show the incredible growing demographic of children under age 5 in the city and the dynamic increase in the number of families staying in the city rather than leaving when school-age hits.
Here's the irony: The statistics these people were using to sell their school were the same ones that public school parents have for the past four years been unsuccessfully trying to persuade the city's Department of Education (DOE) to recognize. As schools have become overcrowded and children are now wait-listed for their PUBLIC school, the DOE has shrugged and essentially said, 'You can always take your 5 year old on the subway to another school.'
The data this private school was using to show the need for more seats in Manhattan were actually culled by us independently of the DOE. And there was Joel Klein smiling away in the front as these numbers flashed on the screen.
After showing us the 30% increase in school age child growth, they offered this solution: Let’s create a school where the tuition, lunch, uniforms, bus service and other fees would total to about $50,000 for kindergarten (really -- that's what they said). A for-profit school costing hundreds of millions of dollars. The whole thing just left me sad.
When I saw that educator I spoke about in the beginning I knew she’d have a good perspective on the school. She had been involved in the creation of a new private school in Manhattan a few years back – and she still heads a large private preschool group. We talked about how all schools have these goals and lofty ambitions but at the end of the day any new school is going to take whomever can write a check.
What I wasn’t prepared for her to say was “I don’t understand why parents aren’t rioting in the streets.” And she meant it. And she was right.
The same day I went to this event to see the future school which will educate the most privileged children in New York City who already have every advantage imaginable Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the steepest cuts to education EVER in New York state. Most of it cutting the city’s education aid.
I sat in a room full of people eating petit fours and drinking wine who all earnestly talked about the dire state of education and how our children are falling behind in the world, so they were building a school that would service those for whom none of this was true.
And at the same time I thought about the teacher lay offs, crumbling buildings, slashed arts programs and lack of basic supplies that were about to become even more entrenched realities. The NYC public school system has 1.2 million children in it. That means there are at least 1.8 million parents I’m thinking who should storm Bloomberg’s office and Cuomo’s office and the White House and demand better.
But here’s the one thing that got me most of all. In that beautifully windowed room, with gorgeous centerpieces and ladies in Armani and men who have been running the world forever there was a lot of passion about education. There really was. That is what made me sad. Imagine if these resources and talents – and money – were being put towards public education. Not for charter schools, not for tiny little programs – but a serious discussion about what it’s going to take to change our school system.
I used to joke about a city where private school was not an option. How quickly would the schools change if those with the most power to change them had to be part of the system?
So WHY aren’t parents in the streets?
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| February 3, 2011; 9:45 AM ET
Categories: Guest Bloggers | Tags: Avenues, Avenues The World School, Joel Klein, Mom Blog, barry diller, beccarama, manhattan private schools, new york city, new york city schools, private schools
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