Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Open Letter to the NYC Department of Ed and the Teachers' Union

Used with permission from Microsoft.
Dear New York City Department of Education and United Federation of Teachers:

That's right, all of you.

I believe in public school education. In one of the richest nations in the world, it should be a given.

Yet, my husband and I are facing the prospect of paying 20 to 30 thousand dollars per annum for private school because the New York City public school system is, to put it nicely, sub-par. If you consider that we hope to have two children, and they will go to school from ages 3 to 18, the sum total of our children's education will cost 600 to 900 thousand dollars.

Then, of course, there is that little thing called college, but the federal government will be happy to saddle my children with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt of their own to pay for undergraduate education, not to mention graduate schooling if they so choose.

Does that make sense to you?

Sure, I could probably find a public elementary school in Brooklyn for my children to attend. All I need to do is pay a consultant two hundred dollars an hour to help me figure out where to move so that when you rezone the districts again in two years, we'll have a fighting chance of being eligible to attend one of the five or so good schools. That is, if we can afford to live in those areas as a family of four.

And then, apparently, entrance into our zoned public school is not even guaranteed due to overcrowding. Can that be right? I'm still sorting it all out.

Look, I've met the above-referenced consultant; she is warm and knowledgeable. She deserves business in the current environment. All I'm saying is, I shouldn't need a consultant to figure out kindergarten.

In any case, we'd still have to pay for middle and high schools because, let's face it, you've failed altogether in those departments. Likewise, there is no real opportunity for public pre-school (the limited seats in the Universal Pre-K program don't count, sorry). So assuming it is possible to obtain a six-year reprieve with elementary school, we're still looking at around a half million dollars for our children's pre-college education.

If I went back to work full-time and we scrimped and saved, we might be able to pull it off. Of course that would preclude giving my children an opportunity to see the world, to explore the outdoors, to learn outside the classroom, to play a sport. Never mind pulling together the down payment to fulfill the American Dream of home-ownership.

Does that seem like a fair trade-off to you?

I love New York. I want to stay, but you're making it difficult. I've lived here for over twelve years, not including two years in the 1970s before my parents, too, got the hell out of Dodge.

By the same token, the suburbs, where I grew up, nauseate me. I dislike the environmentally unfriendly sprawl, the social isolation, the comparative lack of art and theater. I detest car culture. Former co-workers in Westchester would drive five blocks to go to lunch unless I insisted we walk.

You are driving me out of the city, like countless others. I don't want to leave, but I'm starting to think I have no choice. As annoying as the predicament is to me, however, I am lucky to have the ability to leave if I so choose. I cannot say the same for millions of others. That is the real tragedy.

I know. The problem of public education is seemingly intractable. Is it money? Is it department politics? Parental malaise? The teachers' union? Safety? A sudden onslaught of kids with ADHD? I don't care. You've had fifty or more years to figure it out, and you have failed us.


Urban Moo Cow

I had to ditch my terrible commenting system, but I didn't want to lose the comments, so here they are: