The Mess About Public Schools

The Philadelphia School District like many other school districts have lots of problems.  Test scores are poor, drop out rates are high, there is a $300 million funding shortage.  Almost as if they are forgetting about their main mission (educating Philadelphia’s youth), the District has had to furlough a lot of support staff (nurses, administrators, and counselors).  The School District seems more interested in vouchers for Charter and Private Schools.

The main reason the Philly Schools are short money is that the State cut over $300 million in State aide and the City has not found ways to replace it.  Both the State and the City have ignored the funding issue and instead have become proponents of Vouchers for Private and Charter Schools claiming them to be superior to Public Schools.  Hmmm.

Yesterday there was a wake up call.  The call came from a news report which boggles the mind when you think about it.  There was a rape involving 4 boys and one girl.  While heinous, the depravity of this crime jumps out when one learns that the boy charged with rape was 10 years old.  One has to wonder what social conditions would lead to this type of 10 year old behavior?

The rape took place in a stair well between classes.  One must also wonder why no one interceded.

The reluctance of any student to intercede might have to do with the code of the street.  One is also left to wonder why no adult, especially a teacher or administrator was not watching the stairs.  According to school officials there is a policy which calls for a school official to be in the halls and stair wells.  So, why wasn’t one there?

Now the ball of yarn begins to unwind.

Charter and Private Schools are schools who select their students.  If the prospective student poses any risk to good order they are refused entry.   If an accepted students later acts up, he/she are liable for expulsion.  So where do those students denied Charter or Private School participation go?  That’s correct, they concentrate in public schools making the publics a more difficult learning environment.

Philadelphia is a large city and has its share of large city problems.  Poverty and single parent families are associated with children whose behavior suggests they do not want to learn.  In the extreme, sexual crimes, fights, and even shootings occur.

Our society is faced with a huge dilemma.  We seem on the path of segregating the socially unfit (and physically/mentally challenged) and keeping them in public schools until they quit, are graduated, or are sent to prison.  Public opinion seem comfortable thinking that Charter Schools or Private (mainly parochial schools) provide better education even when test scores say otherwise.

I do not know the answer.  What I do know is that cutting public school funding is self defeating.  While a certain number of Charter Schools may be a wise investment to see if innovative teaching methods could emerge, unless Charters were forced to accept all students regardless, they leave too much collateral damage for those remaining in Public Schools.  Private Schools are are attractive (if you can afford tuition), but the mere thought of vouchers is repugnant.

Somehow it seems Philadelphia has gotten its priorities wrong.  Public schools must be made safe and all students must be protected from disorderly other students.  With a safe environment, education has a chance to take place.  Alternative venues such as Charters and Private schools must be judged on the same basis as public ones.  They must be open to all students.

If we allow Charters and Private Schools to cherry pick only those students they wish to educate, we will see Public Schools become dysfunctional.  It is time to recognize what the mess about public schools is all about.

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2 Comments on “The Mess About Public Schools”

  1. Hello and wow! I couldn’t have said this better myself. I’m a graduate of the Chicago public school system and this post could easily have been written about Chicago’s school system. 54 Chicago public schools were closed in 2013 to make way for more charter schools. It makes you wonder about the future of public education. I guess the word ‘public’ will have to be re-defined.

    Thank you for your moderation.

    • Zobop, thanks for the comment and sharing your experience… It is clear that public schools are not working (even in most suburbs) just by looking at test scores… Cities represent a special case because poverty is often concentrated there. The politicians pandering to scared and worried moms and dads is even more shameful… Public schools, more than anything else is responsible for America’s growth… Shame on those who don’t realize the value of public education and double shame on those who think they can escape and leave public schools for someone else…

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