NYS Public School Enrollment

Sep 11, 2018 by

The New York Post may have slipped up in a recent editorial by drawing the proper conclusion from a set of facts.  Normally they don’t do that, especially with education issues. Draw proper conclusions, that is.

In reporting a decline in statewide public school enrollments,their typical slant would be that such a drop is a promising indicator that parents have caught on that public school education is inferior, which has long been the Post’s position.

They are cheerleaders for its demise, even though there is not much for them to cheer about, because the public schools are flourishing, continuing to improve and enjoy overwhelming support, according to the latest polls.

In their editorial, the Post called the dwindling enrollment a “grim sign”. For public school boosters?  No. They call it a “grim sign for the Empire State’s future”. That implies a recognition that the fortunes of New York are linked and interdependent with the fate of its public schools.

That is a welcomed though delayed admission and coming from the Post, probably a fluke.

To their credit,though, they don’t describe the enrollment downturn in overblown terms and they attribute it to high taxes, poor government and weak job prospects that they claim forces young parents who want to raise a family out of state.
The Post’s editorial was far from pristine, though, because they continue to trust a most untrustworthy source for its education-related stories: the Empire Center and its frequent mouthpiece and teacher union basher E.J. McMahon. They couldn’t resist giving another shout-out to charter schools.

By doing the hard work of closing their minds to the evidence,  they have convinced themselves that charter schools provide superior education to public schools and parents who share their judgement are choosing accordingly.

It’s true that charters aggressively pursue what they are accustomed in their day jobs to calling “market share”, but whatever success they have achieved is not attributable to higher standards and results, but rather to disinformation with a lot of tactical support from billionaire investors and the conjuring tricks of tainted statistics.

Of their rivalry with public schools,their view is more sanguinary than sanguine. Charters are certainly giving public schools a run for their money, but in a different sense from academic competition.

Charter schools often offer a more attractive physical environment than do public schools, which isn’t necessarily the same as learning environment and encompasses much more than amenities and accessories. 

But parents notice when their kids are forced to swelter in classrooms when the temperature is in triple digits and their friend’s kids who attend charter schools have air-conditioning in classrooms, not only in administrators’ office suites. They appreciate the carpeting, the clean bathrooms and modern facilities such as gyms and computer labs.

According to Bushwick Daily.com, for the 5 years prior to 2017, charter school enrollment in New York City rose 58 percent.

During that same period, there was a decline of 21 percent in the public school population; in Bed-Stuy it was 25 percent. But if charter school enrollment is not counted, then the public school enrollment does not even rise to the level of a negligible slump: around 1 percent over 5 years.

The Post is fond of reminding us that per-pupil spending in New York City is far above the national average, yet standardized test scores are exceedingly below.  They imply the money is wasted or that there is no causal relationship at all between investment and dividends.

Even if that were accurate, the conclusion to which we are being led draw is off the mark. 

If the amount that is invested in direct instructional and supportive services to children is separated from the extravagant-seeming budget, it’s clear how much money is squandered on self-perpetuating and profligate bureaucracy whose work product does not touch students’ lives in any meaningful or positive way.

In any case, the standardized test scores that The Post cites in their indictment of public schools have been discredited by all major education historians and researchers in the nation.
The Post’s editorial seems to lament the downtrend in state public school enrollment, but between the lines I suspect they are gleeful.  What’s important is that New Yorkers, both in NYC and upstate, are upholders of  their public schools, are proud of their performance, and are not disposed to abandoning them.
Our public schools will never be in jeopardy as long as teachers remain thoroughly trained and driven by high ideals and education consumers have unrestricted access to the whole unvarnished truth.

The vision of legislators, policy-makers and parents must not be jaundiced by manipulated evidence.When the edifice of the pro-charter school privatizers is razed to the ground, the playing fields will finally be leveled.

Ron Isaac

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