Since the recent release of David Guggenheim’s documentary, “Waiting for Superman,” problems with urban public schools have gained more attention. But are there adequate solutions? New York City parents sure hope so.
One of the most problematic issues that many of the schools face is overcrowding. According to the Department of Education, there are 1.1 million New York children to educate. Many children are waitlisted at the schools that they are zoned for. They are required to go out of the area to other (perhaps less desirable) schools in order to get any education at all. One hundred and eleven children were waitlisted at PS 87 last year.
Class sizes are large—often well over thirty children—and help is hard to come by. The state allows parents the opportunity to pay for teaching assistants. This means that schools in wealthier areas are able to pay teacher salaries. Parents in poorer areas often have difficulty raising the funds to pay for that sort of help.
Many schools have been forced to cut key programs in order to pay for more teachers and teaching assistants. Mark Diller, the education chair for Manhattan’s community district 7 told me about the cuts at his son’s school—LaGuardia, a performing arts high
school. The school recently cut the spring musical in order to pay for teachers’ salaries. Mark told me, “We’re past where we’re cutting ‘fat.’ We’re cutting things that are essential.”
Things shouldn’t be this way. Sherri Semone, a parent at PS 84, thought that her child would be part of a class of twenty-five, but the class now has thirty-two students. She adamantly told me, “seven kids make a difference.” Parents want change. Sherri and other parents are applying for grants to help to pay for improvements, but money is scare and few parents have the time to find ways to get it.
There must be a better solution. How do we fix it?
Please share your own experience/ ideas regarding New York City Public Schools.