The children of New York City have been waiting too long
for the school funds that are rightfully theirs, and when Justice Leland DeGrasse issues his forthcoming court order in the
Campaign for Fiscal Equity case, he needs to do it in such a way as to force
the state government to stop its delaying tactics.
Fines would be completely appropriate.
When the money finally makes its way to New York City schools, there is still the
question of how to spend it.
Making Pre-K Universal For Real
I feel incredibly strongly that some money must go to early
childhood education. We have something called
universal pre-K, but that name is like something out
of George Orwell's 1984. Our program is not
universal in two ways. It is not universal because
there are more than 50,000 four-year-olds and more
than 75,000 three-year-olds who do not get to attend
It is also not universal in the sense that it does not
cover the instructional needs of the kids. Today, kids
are expected to know in kindergarten what they were
expected to know in first or second grade 25 years
ago. You cannot have a mere two hours of pre-K, which
is what they fund now, and expect children to be ready
There is a complete consensus in the research
community and among educators that to give children a
good start in life, they must have early childhood
education. If not an all-day program, which would be
ideal for working parents, it must at least be a
More Qualified Teachers
The most important factor in a child's
education -- and it is somewhat clichĂ© to say -- is
the quality of the teacher. If you have a poor
curriculum and a great teacher, your kid will be fine.
There are two factors in getting more qualified
teachers. One is the pay and the second is the working
conditions. The pay is better than it was 10 years
ago, but we still need to improve it.
Addressing working conditions is so simple. You cannot
expect to retain teachers if you send them into a
school where not only is the pay inadequate, but they
have to scrounge around for the most basic supplies.
When you get a job in the corporate world, you get a
desk, a chair, a telephone, paper, pens. You do not
have to buy your own. You do not have to scrounge
Fixing The Labor Contracts
We have to decide whether teachers are assembly
line workers or professionals. In my view, they are
professionals. They need to be paid as such and they
need to contribute as such without complicated work
rules. A good time to do this is when you come up with
more money, so the additional funding from the state
could create an opportunity here.
And sometimes the issue is money. For example, we
cannot get qualified science teachers unless we pay
them more than some other teachers. If you can be a
nurse or a pharmacist for much more money, why would
you go into teaching? A few do, but, in general, it is
not going to happen. But the teachers contract
prohibits differential pay.
Reducing Class Size; Upgrading Facilities
The final thing is class size reduction and facilities
upgrades. As part of this, we have to stop thinking of
arts, science and sports as luxuries that we can
afford only if we are not in a fiscal crisis. All the
private, independent and parochial schools recognize
this. Art and sports engage kids. If kids are engaged
they will do better in geometry and reading.
But we do not have the facilities for arts, sports and
the like. For example, 55 percent of New York City
public schools do not have an outdoor playground. The
New York City school system has very few chorus
risers. Many schools have an auditorium but no
curtain. The curtain was purchased 40 years ago and
has since disintegrated. It is hard to have a play
with no curtain.
It would be great to have robotics labs. But that is
not what we are talking about. We are talking about
the bare minimum.
Eva Moskowitz chairs the City Council Education
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