“Do we as a society believe it is acceptable for a child’s life to be predetermined by the ZIP code in which they were born?”
City schools CEO Sonja Santelises posed that question last night to a commission studying the state’s funding of pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in public schools throughout the state.
Irvington is in zip code 21229 – Frederick Road near the City line. My 41st District colleagues and I attended the community’s monthly meeting Tuesday night. Concerns about drug dealing in the immediate area where the meeting took place were the focus of discussion..
The next day, an Irvington resident emailed me, “I’m wondering, very genuinely, if more money for education is a reasonable solution to our education problem when, from an outside perspective, we don’t seem capable of managing the money that we do have and have had access to…I’d be interested in hearing also, how we as a community can hold our public officials and managers accountable for spending appropriately.”
I responded: “You make a valid point. An increase in funding for our public schools would be an opportune moment to seek to increase the quality of education by adding appropriate criteria to assess how the money is spent. At the same time, the vast majority of the children attending City schools are in poor families. That means that more resources are essential to enable them to overcome the obstacles generated by poverty. Those resources cost money.”
Our public schools are where all students, regardless of income, regardless of zip code, have the opportunity to prepare themselves for adulthood. It is our obligation, as citizens and as legislators, to fund our public schools and then oversee their operation so that they can meet that obligation.