Private Schools’ Fear and Trembling

Nov 11, 2020 by

A recent New York Post editorial described “the total dysfunction of New York City’s entire public school system”.  They are painting with an extravagantly broad brush of slander.  Not the first time, won’t be the last.

If phrased differently and put in a more objective context taking into consideration factors that speak for themselves rather than lend themselves to distortion, they have a semi-legitimate point, but they run with it and crash the truth into a steel wall and wreck it.

Their main contention is that the “State Education Department should not “drive to dictate private-school curricula” in an effort to align it with mandates imposed upon public schools. 

They feel that student performance standards in most religious, charter and other private schools is preponderantly superior to that of public schools and proves the benefits of the government keeping its hands- off and allowing independent schools to operate unmolested by regulation and free of meddling.

They are afraid that the SED is plotting an avalanche of new coercive and restrictive  rules that will check and undermine their operation. They suspect public school bureaucracies will leaden the wings of the bird of educational liberty just as it is taking flight. 

What fuels their paranoia? 

State Education Commissioner Betty Rosa’s saying she seeks to “develop an inclusive framework for determining substantial equivalence for the students of New York State”.  Because of publicity about a statistically insignificant handful of religious schools that receive taxpayer money while allegedly providing no math or English instruction, the SED is seizing on a pretext to shackle all private schools,they claim.

The Post has a nasty track record of slamming public schools and holding up their competitors as sterling models for emulation.  Their transparent motive of shilling for the union-busting anti-public school lobbyists ruins any positive observations they could have made about the contrasts between private and public schools, their role, rights and relationship to agencies of supervision. 

They totally blow it by calling the SED’s oversight of private schools “laughable” and nothing but a “power grab.”  Of course, they don’t categorize their insistence of no-strings public funds as a money-grab.

The Post is basking in what they consider the silver lining of the pandemic: the accelerating pace of parents transferring their kids from public to private schools, many of which have defied medical authority and admonition by remaining open rather than resorting to “remote” learning.

Academic standards in public schools are certainly much lower than they used to be.  The curriculum and its enforcement have been vulnerable to political interference, which has arguably sometimes been necessary but other times not been above board, or at least not to the liking of some parents who may prefer their kids to be taught in a cultural bubble.

Certainly private schools should be accredited by the state and the bar for qualification should be high.  If they satisfy those terms and conditions as evidenced by their students performing as well as public school kids with the same basis for measurement, should the private schools still be bound to a state syllabus or would it be sufficient to keep them under a watchful eye and intervene if their quality falls?

Our public schools are, despite all the storms and stress, the institution that continues to uphold our democratic principles.  They represent not merely a government mandate but a historical mandate. Private schools have much to contribute, but need to participate in the protective sanctions that enable our students and society to thrive.

Ron Isaac

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.