An article in Sunday’s New York Times (6/3/12) reported that PS 87’s Parents’ Association raised 1.57 million dollars. My daughter had a wonderful kindergarten experience there 28 years ago. I can’t remember being asked for more than normal PA dues and to support a bake sale or two. Now, parents are asked for $1,300. After all, the Department of Education has cut school budgets 13.7% over the past five years. Somebody has to make up the difference. Parents who can afford it will supplement the public school budgets. It’s still a lot cheaper than private school.
For a mere $1,300, your kids are getting modern technology not available at schools approximately one mile away. PS 163, in another part of the same district, does not have these extras available, and the demographics of the two schools might provide the answers. At PS 87, only 16% of the students qualify for the free lunch program, while at PS 163, that number is 56%. English Language Learners account for only 3% of the population at PS 87. At PS 163, 10% of the students fall into this category. (My son attended a district gifted and talented program at PS 163 from second grade until the middle of sixth grade, and my daughter from first grade to the middle of second grade. Again, I was not asked for a huge personal donation. I did lobby then Assemblyman Jerry Nadler for a state grant of $300,000 which supported all gifted and talented district programs.)
On the standardized tests given at both schools, the students at PS 87 scoring at level 3 or 4 in English was 84.1% and in Math, 84.9%. At the poorer, PS 163, the percentage of students at that level in English was 59.5% and Math 70.0%. Both schools scored above the citywide averages of 57.9 in English and 40.2 in Math, but that does not justify the disparity in their scores. In fact, it is just common sense that the lower performing schools need greater resources. They need the science kits, the writing guides and the dictionaries more than most of the PS 87 students.
It’s time to level the playing field. If donations are to be solicited, perhaps they should be solicited for the entire district, not just one school by one Parents’ Association. Or, here’s a novel idea, shouldn’t the government do its job and support equal education for all of its students. Isn’t this the “American Dream,” that everybody has an equal chance and advances according to how hard they work and their unique talents?
The privatization of public schools is doing our society a disservice. It is the job of those in charge to see that this problem is fixed, not by creating Charter Schools or “public” private schools, but by fixing the public schools, all of the public schools, even if it means adding a little bit to the tax burdens of those who can most afford to help.
Tell me what you think.