Thursday, October 8, 2015

Some Historical Ironies Regarding Elite Support for Charter Schools in New York City

One of the main reasons why many parents in low and moderate income communities send their children to charter schools- in spite of the scripting, intimidation, and rigid discipline many feature - is that most of these schools keep children from 7 AM to 7 PM. This is a huge boon to working parents, especially those who work more than one job to make ends meet. Neighborhood public schools who do not have fully funded after school programs cannot compete. Parents in the city's poorer communities need schools to be child care centers as well as centers of instruction. In New York City, charter schools provide this more effectively than public schools. And they are able to do this because they force teachers to work far longer hours than public school teachers for the same pay.
What is ironic about this situation, given the enthusiastic Hedge Fund and Celebrity support for charter schools, is that ALL New York City public schools once provided excellent after school programs for the city's children. From the late 1940's through the Fiscal Crisis of the late 1970's, every New York City public school was open 3-5 and 7-9 for supervised activity. These after school centers and night centers were beacons of hope and activity for New York City children as well as places to escape the gangs and violent streets you had in some neighborhoods. They featured sports programs, arts and crafts, music and talent shows. World famous athletes and musicians, some of them living in the city's poorest neighborhoods, were products of these programs
What happened?. In 1976, when New York City was put into receivership to avoid bankruptcy, with fiscal decisions make by a banker controlled Emergency Financial Control Board, huge cuts were mandated in the city's educatiom budget Within a year, ALL of the great after school centers and night centers in the New York City public schools were shut down, along with the great music programs you had in the city's middle schools and high schools. They were deemed too expensive for the taxpayers of New York to afford. These programs were NEVER restored! New York City public schools only have a fraction of the after schools programs and music programs that they had in the 50's and 60;s and those often have to come from outside grants.
Now, through the medium of charter schools, bankers are restoring SOME of what they took away from the city's children in the 1970's. But they are not doing it for all the city's schools and all the city's children. They are only doing it schools where teachers lack union protection and work 12 hour days, and where
school administrators have the power to summarily fire teachers and remove children who don't test well or conform to rigid discipline.
In short, elites are restoring much needed services to children and families only if they can be done far more cheaply than they were in the past, and if they reinforce the kind of intimidation they are trying to foster in the workplaces they own and control.
As a result, parents in poor communities are caught between a rock and a hard place. If they want to keep their children safe and supervised during 12 hour work days, charter schools may be their most viable choice. Even though the teachers in those schools are browbeaten and intimidated and transfer that intimidation to their children.
If you think this is a sad commentary on the cholces we provide to children of the poor, you would not be the only one.


Jeffrey Joy said...

Great post. I completely agree with you.

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