This morning, over 1 million kids (including my two) head back to New York City’s public schools.
Despite the often-contentious rhetoric surrounding education policy these days, our public schools for me remain the shining hope of American democracy: that we all work together – through government, with our tax dollars – to invest heavily in the idea that every single kid deserves an equal opportunity to learn and grow, that diversity is a core strength, that we help individuals achieve their potential through collective action, and that knowledge, ideas, and the search for truth matter. Those are not the values of the marketplace (though good education is certainly essential to a thriving economy); they are the values of democracy.
With that in mind, I want to say thank you to the teachers (too often vilified these days, as though they decided to teach our kids as some sort of trick to swindle us), administrators, school support staff and parent volunteers who work so hard to help all our kids learn. I’m thrilled we were successful in our efforts last spring to prevent any additional cuts to classrooms in this year’s budget.
Our communities are deeply invested in our schools, in ways large and small. Parents volunteer in the classroom, after-school and on the playground. They support arts, music, and cultural programming. They grow school gardens and help improve the food in the lunch room. They organize flash mobs in the school-yard. It’s no surprise that a public school project (fixing the hideous bathrooms at PS 124) was the top vote-getting project in participatory budgeting last year.
Parents also know what they want for their kids – and it is not a school system ever-more-focused on high-stakes testing, stressing out kids, teachers, and principals alike, pitting educators against one another and crowding out more balanced and comprehensive approaches. There are many better ways to evaluate, challenge and support our kids, teachers and schools.
So I am pleased to be joining with ParentVoicesNY and other parent leaders for a public education town hall meeting later this fall (date and location coming soon).
At the town hall, we’ll talk about:
- Parent organizing to reduce the over-emphasis on high-stakes testing
- Addressing overcrowding in District 15
- Community efforts to support John Jay High School (if you’re interested in volunteering there, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Innovative PTA work to support all schools
- Supporting healthier food, gardening, and sustainability
Like democracy, our public schools only work if we show up. On the first day of the new year, let’s make sure we do.