At their core, education policies should be centered around the two people who matter the most: those doing the teaching and those doing the learning. Here’s what we can do to ensure equitable and excellent education for all.
Fully fund Fair Student Funding (FSF)
While New York currently spends an average of 28,000 dollars per student, as with housing, the median is what we should be looking at. Fair Student Funding was meant to ensure equitable distribution of funds to schools based on the student population (students with disabilities, ELLs, low income students) but the State has not provided full funding for this program, and in fact, the Mayor tried to slash 100 million dollars from the program. The FSF distribution is also inequitable, as some school districts are funded as high as 130% of their FSF, while others are funded as low as 90%, Moving forward, all schools should be funded by the same percentage of their FSF to ensure equitable distribution. Furthermore, while the FSF formula is supposed to allocate money to hire all teachers, this is not the case. In the beginning of this school year, the CSA requested an additional 10,000 teachers to offset the burden of virtual learning, but the city only provided 2000, exacerbating the crisis.
Place limits on PTA fundraising for the wealthiest schools.
A disparity in fundraising between schools leads to a disparate level of support and services offered to students beyond what the City can provide. New York City has 18 of the 50 richest PTAs in the nation. Placing limits on the amount that PTAs can raise would, in essence, allow students in different schools to be on more even ground. We should commission a study on the feasibility of placing taxes or fees on the money raised by PTAs over a certain amount. If there are limits on fundraising for City elections, similar restrictions should be in place for the PTA.
Prioritize public schools over charter Schools
Charter Schools, privately run schools that are publicly funded, should not get as much priority as public schools. Subsidies for charter schools should ultimately be divested and then reinvested into public schools. Council does not have discretion over funds sent to charter schools, but does have discretion over the amount of charters given out. We should not authorize any new charters. Charter schools also should not drain public school funding through resource sharing.
Fund universal after-school
If we want to integrate our schools, one of the things we need to be aware of is how to make this integration as seamless as possible. By funding Universal After-School, we can ensure that students spend time with each other outside of school hours, engaged in and bonding over activities they enjoy. And as part of after-school we should fully fund free tutoring services. As it stands, wealthy students have access to services outside of schools that working class students can not access. With tutoring services, we can reduce that gap and allow all students to reach their full potential.
Fully fund CUNY Community Colleges & CUNY Prep. and make them free
While the City Council doesn’t have much of a say over the funding of CUNY’s senior colleges, it does have a large say over the funding of the community colleges. We need to ensure that they are free and fully funded. In fact, all CUNY colleges were free until 1976 and a recent task force set up by the City recommended making them free again.
Offer 3-K in all school districts
3-K most benefits the children of working parents. Working parents who cannot spend as much time educating their children should know that there is a place where their 3 year old is learning the skills that they need to be learning. This is the age at which the learning gap begins to form, and we should start closing that gap by offering 3-K in all school districts. To its credit, the city has been rapidly expanding 3-K, and we must ensure that this continues until no one needs to be turned away.
No Specialized High Schools Admissions Tests (SHSATs)
The SHSATs prioritize students whose parents are able to afford expensive prep programs and tutors. Specialized high schools, with their limited number of seats, should not be the only pathway to an excellent public high school education for NYC students, and a single test should not determine who receives quality public school education and who does not. Furthermore, entrance to a specialized high school ought to be determined by achievement, not a single test. We need to ensure that grades and geographic diversity are the two criteria our Specialized High Schools look at for admissions.
Encourage opting out of standardized exams
One of the issues with our school curriculums is that they focus heavily on teaching skills only found in standardized exams. The inconsistency of the exams, the inefficacy of the exams in determining student knowledge and progress, and the lack of focus on holistic learning means that students aren’t learning to write strong thesis statements or to analyze text or to understand mathematical concepts, but instead are learning how to take exams.
Support for English Language Learners (ELLs) and students with disabilities
We need to make sure programs for ELLs and students with disabilities are fully funded and that the funds are properly used. Supporting these students and making sure that they are prepared for college or have trade skills by the time they graduate is crucial. We also need to make sure that our ELLs are actively seen and thought of as assets to our schools. Having them tutor English speakers in their native language while having native English speakers tutor ELLs in English, for instance, would encourage multilingualism in our schools and reflect the language diversity of NYC.
Improve infrastructure of existing schools
Right now, many schools in New York City use outdated technology and equipment and are housed in outdated buildings. We need to increase funding for New York City’s School Construction Authority to ensure that all students are taught in the best environment with the best tools available. Public schools should be the pride of our communities and that begins with infrastructure.