Lost in the middle of the midterm election coverage this week was a major press conference on Monday by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announcing a $150 million infusion into the Big Apple’s 94 worst performing schools, creating community schools.
What is a community school? Officially named “The School Renewal Program,”
the Mayor calls it his “whole child, whole school, whole community” concept. By “whole child” he means that schools will not just meet students’ academic needs but “all of their needs.”
In addition to providing children with books, desks, and supplies, they will also be given free food, including a pantry, free medical care for both physical and mental needs, weekly check-ups by dentists including cleanings, and free eyeglasses. One school already has a washer and dryer for families to use.
Frankly, it is surprising the bill for this “whole” thing is only $150 million.
This is a significant proposal. Not in terms of money, but in terms of influence.
If the nation’s largest public school system is headed in this direction, how many more districts will follow suit?
The only thing that these schools will not be doing is clothe and house the students. Hey, why not just build dormitories on school campuses? Having students live directly on school property would cut down the tardies. Sure, the living quarters may take away playground space, but kids these days have little time to be kids; they need to be inside, on computers, learning the Common Core standards.
A cradle to career approach is a disturbing trend where the government takes care of children from the time that they are born through their entire K-16 schooling and beyond. Schools will evolve into social service hubs, their original role as learning centers receding.
The view that schools should do more than just teach kids is nothing new. As an extension to the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), President Obama signed the Community Eligibility Provision in 2010 allowing school districts to provide free or reduced-fee lunches to all students. This program feeds 31 million school children each day costing $11.6 billion. The cost has almost doubled since 2000 when it was at $6.1 billion.
This year Chicago Public Schools, the third largest in the nation, is expected to serve 72 million breakfast and lunch meals.
Statewide, 58% of school children participate in NSLP, 66.2% in Los Angeles County.
Public schools rarely seem to have sufficient funds as it is. If monies that should go into higher teacher salaries, improved school facilities, and up to date computer technology get diverted into paying doctors, dentists, washers, and dryers, the future of America’s public schools may be bleaker than it already is.
Politicians excel at concocting education initiatives for failing schools without addressing the root of the problem: at-home parenting.
Mayor de Blasio plans on holding the principals and teachers accountable, but no where in his speech did he speak of the accountability of the parents. You know, parents who are supposed to rear their children, feed and house them, and, yes, push them to do well in school.
Parent involvement is not just attending PTA meetings; it is talking to their children, checking their homework, partnering with the teacher.
Without parent involvement, no amount of money or ideas to fix struggling schools will ever work.
The old saying about give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime needs to apply here.