Looking at Brown vs. the Board of Education

Prometheus 6 is looking…

And it got me to thinking –

Joel Klein, Schools Chancellor, New York City

In New York, the education establishment has worked its way around the logical implications of Brown by two primary mechanisms: 1) retaining discriminatory funding formulas tied to property values and 2) subsidizing the capacity of wealthy and middle-class white districts to retain experienced and high-quality teachers by allocating funds according to the “average teacher salary” at the school. In other words, when preliminary budgets are introduced, School A (located in a primarily white district – like Douglaston, Queens or downtown Manhattan) could have an ATS of $75000. These teachers may have 10-15 years in the system…they may be award winning, accomplished professionals who are in high demand in lower performing districts; they will likely hold master’s degrees and have demonstrated leadership skills in professional development, etc. but…

School B, which will be located in East Harlem or Central Harlem or Bushwick or Bed-Stuy or East New York or the South Bronx will have an Average Teacher Salary of $48000. Those teachers, however, are new to the system. They have one or two years experience. They are cultural aliens and know nothing of classroom management. Their school of education has prepared them to teach white girls, almost exclusively. They arrive in classrooms with no white girls – except the one in the mirror. There are more high-poverty students, more limited English proficient students, more special needs students – and FEWER community-based/parent financial support networks to augment services which cannot be provided by the school.

The differential in Average Teacher Salary effectively provides more funding for schools with better teachers and SUBSIDIZES the capacity of these schools to add NEW TEACHERS without significantly undermining the averge teacher salary of the school. It also incentivizes school principals to pay new teachers in “better schools” higher salaries, while principals in schools with lower ATS’ cannot encourage new teachers with higher salaries at the expense of the existing staff.

This fiscal end around the Brown decision effectively keeps schools segregated (a non-issue) while keeping the most experienced, best paid teachers in schools with the most experienced, best paid admininstrators; the wealthiest, most connected parents; the wealthiest most effective community networks and the least “needy students.”

This particular item has generated a great deal of heat. There has been a ground swell of energy to change the funding formulas to focus on the needs of students. Consider one implication…if School A wants to keep a full compliment of teachers at $75k, the city doesn’t subsidize that decision…the school and its parents/community pony up the dollars to pay those teacher salaries – and make tough cuts if they’re unable to raise money on their own. School B, with its high-need students gets a significant infusion of cash which can be used to hire more experienced teachers or add external support servics to improve outcomes for those children.

The current system operates like WalMart…a poor majority contributes their nickels and dimes so that a few wealthy children or middle to upper middle class children can attend elite PUBLIC Schools in a few locations. If you EVER look at TEST SCORES in NYC, the top scores come from 2 districts (out of 32)…that’s it – just 2. District 2 (a mega district that covers most of downtown Manhattan and serves a demographic that does not reflect this increasingly black and brown city); District 26 (Queens – Douglaston, a wealthy enclave in an outer borough that has retained its retinue of million dollar homes and water-front views). The other districts are scattered along an achievement curve that precisely follows the relative income of adults.

The City of New York has admitted as much.  Considering this urban funding pattern with the suburban funding pattern predicated on property taxes, it’s a wonder that any poor children in the State of New York actually have any academic success.

By the way, NYCDOE just hired your boy Roland Fryer!

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