Since Summer 2020, when teachers’ unions turned children’s lives into the battleground for misguided Covid policies, parents have been fleeing big cities like New York City. They wanted to escape the crime, mandates, and high costs of living associated with living in the city. At the Manhattan Institute, Ray Domanico, a senior fellow and director of education policy, explains some ideas schools can use to better serve families in a post-pandemic world. He writes:
Recommendations: Parents Are “Voting with Their Feet”; Policy Makers Must Respond
The State Legislature Must:
- Reaffirm that the role of the city’s public schools is to serve students, not the various political and interest groups that seek jobs, patronage, or contracts. Those interest groups predominated in the decades prior to mayoral control, and they must not be allowed to regain control. The legislature should not wait two years to put children and families first by undoing the June 2022 legislation and extending the original vision of mayoral control of the system, preferably without an expiration date. This may be possible after the November 2022 elections, in which all seats in the legislature will be on the ballot.
- The ultimate power that parents have is that of choice. New Yorkers have always exercised that power, as evidenced by the presence of three large systems of schools in the city—a public district, public charters, and private and religious schools. Good schools in all sectors should be recognized for the valuable benefits they provide to the social and economic life of the city. Charter schools have demonstrated that they are a critical component of the city’s educational landscape. The state legislature should abolish the misguided cap on the number of charter schools in the city.
- In the coming years, pending the resolution of ongoing U.S. Supreme Court cases, the state should tangibly recognize the value of private and religious schools. Too many of these schools have closed for financial reasons in the last 20 years, denying parents a full range of school choice. As the Supreme Court makes clear its view toward public support of religious schools, the state should respond to new opportunities that may emerge. Our city and state must find ways to embrace parents and families from all communities, including those for whom religious education is the only acceptable option. If we don’t, other states will welcome these families, and that would be a great loss to the social, economic, and cultural strength of our city and state.
The State Board of Regents Must:
- Embrace “opportunity pluralism,” the notion that there are multiple valid outcomes of elementary and secondary schooling, including but not limited to preparation for college. The city’s school leadership should also demonstrate a commitment to opportunity pluralism by growing—not reducing—the number of schools with advanced programs for the highest-achieving students while also expanding the availability of career and workforce preparation programs.
- This would involve the creation of a two-tiered high school diploma system, with an advanced diploma indicating the graduate’s readiness for college and a general diploma recognizing that the student has successfully completed high school.
It would also mean accelerating the approval of alternative pathways for students to earn their diplomas. Many would signal completion of a course of study aligned with industry standards for entry to certain trades or other vocations. Other pathways would acknowledge the success of schools in the New York State Performance Standards Consortium, which measure academic achievement using rigorous methods other than the Regents exams now required of all high school graduates. The Board of Regents should resist the urge to implement public oversight of private and religious schools, which are a critical asset for many families. It should continue to enforce the substantial equivalence rule by responding to specific instances of noncompliance. In doing so, it should recognize the valid academic merit of rigorous religious studies.
The Mayor and Chancellor Must:
- Signal that they are committed to focusing on the academic outcomes of our schools. This must be reinforced constantly, and misguided calls to undermine the value of student achievement must be denied.
- Continue to support opportunity pluralism by expanding access to accelerated learning and programs for the gifted and talented in every local district in the city.
- Expand the number of workforce preparation programs in the city’s schools, while working within the Regents’ guidelines.
- Make sure that the system’s locally deliberative bodies—the Community Education Councils— should retain roles for members who are currently parents of school-age children. Those bodies should be public forums through which parents and community members are allowed to voice their opinions about proposed changes in policy. Their voices should be heard and taken seriously. The city’s leadership should deliberate with parents and community members, not lecture them.
- Support the growth of charter schools in the city by offering them space in underutilized district school buildings.
- Recognize that all schools must be held accountable for results. Those schools that are consistently low-performing and are losing enrollment should be closed and their space made available for the creation of new and different approaches.
Families are essential to the social, economic, and cultural strength of New York City and the state. If education leaders fail to implement these recommendations, parents will continue to “vote with their feet” and leave for cities and states that value their input as education consumers. Yes, a high-quality education for children and young people is a public good. Parents who have been driven to exercise more choice over their education options as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, however, will not forget that it is a private good as well.
Action Line: Americans will vote with their feet, and they’re headed to my Super States. Click here to subscribe to my free monthly Survive & Thrive letter, where I’ll help you prepare mentally for the big move.
E.J. Smith - Your Survival Guy
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