New York is designed to keep kids segregated.
As founder of The Public Good, I’ve invested countless hours over the past eight years to understand why schools that are blocks away present stark contrasts in educational culture and opportunity to nearby families. I’ve researched the demographics, the outcomes and the differences in resources and personal choices that contribute to the disparities of NYC’s public schools.
And I’ve learned that our schools and neighborhoods will continue to grow more disparate and segregated until New York’s policy makers treat early childcare, education and extra-curricular enrichment as an investment in whole families all along the income scale.
What is evident is that the education pipeline of early childcare, UPK, Kindergarten, Middle School and High School is a system where access is skewed from the beginning. It’s not as simple as private vs. public money. The segregation happens within the public system at the earliest age. Moreover, the current system of early childcare and education in NY has the pernicious effect of reinforcing socio-economic segregation, system gaming and the community conflicts that come with a model of education based on scarcity.
I came to this as a parent during the process of applying to Pre-K for my first child. Once he got a seat at a local school (no easy feat) I got involved in his elementary school which at that time, was still eligible for Title I money and under-enrolled. I was so thrilled to be part of a small, nurturing school with such a diversity of families where everyone seemed to know and care about each other. I organized book sales, wrote grants for enrichment, became Treasurer of our parent association and helped organize a parent-led after school program after we lost our subsidized program.
My family lives on the Lower East Side where our community school District 1 is un-zoned, small and experiencing rapid gentrification. It’s also a neighborhood with the highest concentration of public housing in Manhattan and long history of immigrants and many languages.
Besides lived experience, I also bring a professional and academic background in public policy analysis and nonprofit management, having spent 20 years working in government, social service agencies and as a business strategist for public sector clients. My graduate school research looked at the impact of divorce, education, and discrimination on economic outcomes, especially for women.
My choice to study social welfare policy and work in the public sector was probably influenced by my experience growing up in a non-traditional household where my family was coping with deafness, mental illness, unemployment, divorce, juvenile alcoholism, drugs and delinquency. Barely held together by a mother supporting the five of us with minimum wage jobs.
Now with kids of my own, I am sensitive to their needs as well as the diverse needs of families in our school and community environments.
I know that there are no simple policy solutions that will yield the kind of results our politicians and advocates are looking for. But it seems to me that the public conversations continue to avoid some of the most obvious barriers. Such as the lack of affordable after school care for all working families, including children in PreK.
Many of our current programs are based on policies that were designed 20 or more years ago. And they haven’t kept pace with the needs of today’s families.
So I’ve decided to share everything I learn and discover through this space. As a way to encourage public discussion and action that will help create education policies and opportunities that are designed to meet the needs of a wider and more diverse audience in today’s NY City.