Choice and equity
For the past eight years, The Public Good has been actively researching NYC Department of Education (DOE) policies around school choice. We look at the socio-economic trends and disparities within neighborhoods, while assessing the painful reality of schools, neighborhoods and a City that is increasingly divided and driven by self interest.
We are inspired to do this work by our vision of living in a city where public school children are not segregated from each other by shortsighted policies and differences in families economic situations.
One area we have been exploring is the link between resources and funding for services such as after-school programs and the socio-economic composition of elementary schools. In community District 1 where my kids have attended public schools since PreK and which is one of two Districts without zoned schools, parents “choose” where to send their child for PreK or Kindergarten and hope for the best. In a community where 19% of residents live below NYC’s poverty threshold (compared to 14% Manhattan-wide), a handful of elementary schools do not receive any assistance to make afterschool programs affordable for all children. That’s because, NYC allocates support for afterschool only if a school has a minimum of 60% of students who qualify for public assistance. So kids whose families live below poverty choose (or are assigned a school) where the majority are not in poverty, the most disadvantaged kids will still have to pay for afterschool.
So my question for the past several years has been, are the City’s policies around afterschool and enrichment funding contributing towards the growing economic segregation in our school system? If you were a working parent earning minimum wage and needed safe and dependable care for your child from 3:00-6:00pm every day and you could choose between sending your kindergartner to a school with free afterschool or one where you had to pay $3,000 a year, everything else being equal, you might lean towards the free full-time option.