Inequity No Matter How You Look At It

The article above left me stumped on so many levels  I had a difficult time grouping the piles of fault.  I decided to just write and then go back and make the connections – clearly this is a spectacle about to unfold.

First off, it is obvious parents realize there is something wrong with large classes full of kids not getting an adequate education.  Sadly, the parents who seem to realize this problem make enough money to ‘do’ something about the problem, unlike the students in other schools where poverty is  more the norm.  Parents in schools of poverty may know in some manner that education is not happening, however they lack the ability to fundamentally change the equation.  Equity would seem to be a situation where all of the extra money collected for classroom aides is equally spread/distributed to all schools in the system so all schools have aides, not merely the schools where mommy and daddy have money.  

 There is an elementary school near where I currently live and the resources at this one school are infinitely greaterer than at any other school in the district.  The parents all contribute lavishly to the PTA.  Schools less than a mile away which do not have parents with such large, expendable incomes have little in their budget by comparison.  The whole community knows this is going on and the school board practically endorses it  by doing nothing to create a climate of equity.  All the teachers in the district want to be at this school since it has so many resources brought in via the PTA.  To those of us who have taught at the other schools in the district, we are horrified, dismayed, saddened and can only imagine what  our students feel like. 

The sad part about what is going on in NYC is that it has been sanctioned and justified for so long by parents at various schools in the wealthier parts of  NYC that it is an institution unto itself which is decidedly separate and unequal.  When a school district and community allow this to happen, they are both at fault, albeit for different reasons.

Why are the parents themselves not volunteering in the classrooms and at the schools rather than hiring aides?  Is it beneath the dignity of the parents to do something so menial?     Are these self same parents doing anything on a larger level to  improve education for all- such as attending  BOE meetings, writing their legislators, congressional representatives, Arne Duncan?

Clearly there is a degree of nepotism abounding in situations where the ‘aides’ which are hired are already,  often magically credentialled and then hired in at the schools when an opening becomes availablen. This is pay to play at its worst and most base.  Rob Blagojevitch from Chicago could learn some skillful lessons from the parents who have created this program.

As a teacher, I am offended by this program on three different levels: (1) If I were at a school that did not have an aide as my parents could not afford it, I would be subjected to substantial extra work the teachers at the better schools with aides were not subjected to doing – this could be anything from recess duty to extra prep time to being able to do differentiated instruction properly. (2) NYC BOE has allowed these credentialed aides being in the classroom but denies adequate employment to Peace Corps Fellows Students at Teachers College/Columbia University who are in a credentialing program and earning a graduate degree. (3) Since when has any school employee been able to get by without fingerprinting and a background check?  Is this induction via ‘word of mouth’?

If I were the parents, principals or PTA personnel involved in this systematic abuse of money for problem solving, I would be having a good look at myself in the mirror as the lesson I just taught the children involved is all is fair as long as you have money to make it ‘fair’.  The message, no matter how it might have been well intentioned, is abhorrent in light of what it represents about equity in public education.  Some one needs to go back and review Brown vs. Board of Education so they can at least understand the depth of these mistakes.

Equalizing Resources. The United States tolerates a 3-to-1 spending disparity between its high- and low-wealth schools. It’s time to pay off that shameful education debt. Just as questionable fiscal policies have saddled our young people with an enormous monetary debt, the nation faces a huge educational debt resulting from hundreds of years of unequal educational and economic opportunity.

More than 50 years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, it’s time we all acknowledged that a high-quality public education is a civil right that must be made available to all children on equal terms. The federal government has a vital role to play in achieving this, by funding programs for high-needs students, linking future funding to states’ progress toward more-equitable opportunities to learn, and targeting extra resources to the poorest children, those most hindered by the current system. Otherwise, the opportunity for children to learn will remain what it has been—a privilege for some, instead of a right for all.