It seems that there is always a shortage of teachers in big cities across the United States. Additionally, there seems to be overcrowding schools in these same cities. One example that I know of is in New York.
Every fall, the newspaper headlines focus on overcrowding schools in low-income communities and the shortage of teachers in those same schools. Ultimately what ends up happening is that the schools stay overcrowded, the teachers under populated, the problem moves out of the headlines and gone until the following fall, when the cycle repeats itself again. However, this year, things might be a little different.
For the first time in maybe the history of New York and public education, the poorer communities are not the only ones struggling with this problem. Upper-class New Yorkers are finding themselves being turned away from their neighborhood schools or being put on a waiting list for schools that they are zoned for.
It’s rare the problems that affect the poor also affect the rich in the same way, but in this example of public education, both groups are struggling to find affordable ways to educate their children this upcoming school year.
I am conflicted in how to feel about this situation. On one hand, I feel like this is sweet justice. For the first time, those privileged and entitled are feeling helpless and hopeless in a situation that they can’t control. They now get a sense of what life is like for the millions living below the poverty level and with little means for improving their lives, let alone the education of their children.
However, at the same time, I want to use this situation to bring people together.
The privileged parents who are finding waiting lists for their neighborhood schools have the means and know how to work within the system and can put pressure on these cities to correct this situation: whether it means building new schools, hiring qualified teachers, whatever.
My experience in the public school system comes from the vantage point of a former teacher. Working in an overcrowded school makes the experience of a teacher that much more challenging, no matter how much money the parents have. I want to think that parents, whatever their financial or political means will right this wrong that cities are doing in under-funding the public school system.
This is a great opportunity for people to come together and work towards the betterment of the public school system and the children that it serves.
I for one am in favor of supporting the children and reminding parents that in order for their children to be successful, they need to put their collective pressure on the city governments to meet their demands.
No matter how much money the parents have, the power here is in numbers and resources, which is why both groups of parents can put their support behind their children to make sure there are enough schools and teachers to educate their children, to become the future leaders of this country, and the world. What other options do we have?
This post was written by Matthew Reid, volunteer blogger with the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. A native New Yorker, Matthew now lives in Boston and works for a math curriculum development company.