Education Is Not Just Another Business
Educating a child—-your daughter, my teenage autistic son—is not the same as running a business.
Don’t get me wrong. I know it’s the bottom line that school superintendents are looking at when making decisions in the name of education and ‘best practices.’ I’ve read my share of minutes from school board meetings and done my time debating, um, talking about my son’s educational needs and services and therapies with school administrators and case managers who just keep thinking how expensive it is to educate a child with disabilities like my son, and wishing they could dedicate more resources to a student who will bring fame and glory on the town by, you know, getting into Yale or knocking out 5′s on a dozen different AP tests.
So I was gladdened, sort of, to learn that the major of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, had to agree to appoint a career educator with experience in an actual public school classroom, as the second in command to his choice for the next chancellor of New York City schools, Cathleen P. Black. As reported in the November 26th New York Times, Black—the chairwoman of Hearst Magazines, has ‘spent a lifetime in the media business, does not hold any advanced degrees and has had little exposure to public schools.’
Oh sure. Just the person I would wish to have anything to do with the education of my son.
I mean, do you really think Black has sat down and read her way through the likes of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act?
Shael Polakow-Suransky, a former principal of a Bronx high school and top official at the city’s Department of Education, is to be Black’s second in command. New York state’s education commissioner, David M. Steiner, only agreed to grant Black an ‘exemption from the normal credentials required by state law for the position’ after Major Bloomberg had conceded to ‘create the position of chief academic officer to oversee curriculum and testing at the city’s Department of Education.’
It’s not clear how much authority Polakow-Suransky will actually have as the second to Black, who is to take office January 1 of next year after the resignation of the current chancellor, Joel I. Klein. New York City’s school system, with 1.1 million children, 135,000 employees and 1,600 schools, is the largest in the nation.
I can only say, based on my experiences as a parent navigating and, too often, battling my way through the education system to get my son an appropriate education—-and also as a college professor of Classics, of ancient Greek and Latin, at a small school where most students major in pre-professional subjects—-that when push comes to shove, ‘economics’ drives more than a few decisions that are labeled ‘educational.’
I guess that is, as some would say, the price of business.
Photo by adecker31.