To the editor:
As educators, we know that the key ingredient for community schools is adequate funding for instructional programs, extended learning opportunities, and enriched health and social services.
Effective teachers also know that often they must use their own personal resources to create classroom environments which are viable, write proposals to fund extended learning opportunities, and lobby in Albany to secure better health and safety conditions. Then teachers must lobby for additional psychologists, social workers and guidance counselors.
The failure of local and state governments to provide funding to economically poor citizens and their schools would otherwise compromise the teachers’ efforts and the future of this great nation. The truly dedicated educators have seen miracles happen daily for years as their students’ dreams were realized.
Fortunately, this is not a new phenomenon throughout the nation. Good teachers have always made a difference in the lives of their students.
Case in point: Directly after the Emancipation Proclamation, “the exceptionally gifted rose above the staggering obstacle of quasi-freedom,” said Martin Luther King Jr., at the United Federation of Teachers spring conference in 1964. “It is precisely because education is a road to equality and citizenship that it has been made more elusive for Negroes than many other rights. The warding off of Negroes from equal education is part of the historical design to submerge him in second class status.”
And today we can see this happening as the rich-poor gap is allowed to widen in New York City, New Orleans, Alabama, Mississippi, and even Washington, D.C., our nation’s capital.
King reminded UFTers in 1964 that “education for all Americans, white and black, has always been adequate.
The richest nation on Earth has never allocated enough of its abundant resources to build sufficient schools, to compensate adequately all its teachers, and to surround them with the prestige their work justifies.”
Therefore, when we read the “rich-poor gap widens” not only for individuals, but for schools in general, we cannot be surprised. “Most economists are drawing the conclusions that a good education is one of the gateways to wealth creation for individuals as well as nations,” according to Education Trust.
Yet, benign neglect seems to be the mantra of many in political office who turn their backs on the ones who need quality education the most as the budget cuts cut away at the dollars earmarked for public education.
The Campaign for Fiscal Equity has become a prime example of how the state was not providing adequate funding in city public schools. And as educators, we know that the resources needed to implement new programs designed by the city are inadequate.
Thus, we were not surprised to learn that “New York also stands out for neglecting to fairly fund poor and minority school districts. New York spends $2,280 less per student in its poorest districts than it does on students educated in its wealthiest school districts. Even after New York was ordered to deal with these funding gapes, policymakers have failed to take action,” according to a 2005 Education Trust report.
John Hendrik Clarke said, “History is a clock. It tells us where we are, but more importantly, what we must be.” If we are the union, we must continue to fight for equity for all.
And as members of The Keep the Promises Coalition, we must continue to keep the pressure on legislators from Albany to Washington. Our quest must be to secure public schools that reflect democracy in action because the children are waiting for New York City to fix — and not close — their schools.
Phyllis C. Murray