Friday, February 18, 2005

Dear Governor Pataki,

As a teacher in the New York public schools, I urge you to follow the court's order in CFE v. State of New York. As governor, you set the tone for state policymakers.

The children I work with in the Bronx come from low-income families. They enter school not having had access to the same kind of medical care, nutrition, early childhood education, books in the home, etc. that children from middle class homes typically have. From the very start, many of these children are behind. They need schools that will help them catch up, so that they may enjoy an equal opportunity to pursue their dreams, the American dream.

Let me tell you a little about my school. The heating system is unreliable, so classrooms are often (and unpredictably!) far too hot or far too cold for comfort. The cafeteria is noisy and unclean. We have no true gymnasium; instead we have rooms with hard floors and walls, basketball hoops but no markings on the court, and concrete pillars in the middle of the room.

I teach on the fifth of six floors, but our school has no elevator. I don't know what we would tell a disabled child or parent who wanted to attend our school but could not enter the building or climb the stairs to our classrooms.

Classes are crowded. The middle school where I work has comparatively small classes of 27-30 students, yet we still have difficulty squeezing that many children into the classroom while still providing space for them to put their books, do science experiments, etc. In other schools, classes are far more crowded. We need additional funding so that we can hire more teachers and break up large classes so that children can get more individualized attention. Additional funding could also hire school nurses and counselors to treat children's physical and emotional problems, which will improve their overall well-being and school attendance.

Children who are struggling need the best teachers, and New York City has many good teachers, but we need the resources to attract and retain the absolute best teachers if we are to close the gap in achievement between rich and poor. The cost of living in New York City is very high, and we must be able to pay teachers enough to live comfortably in our city, or they will move elsewhere. We need to provide working conditions - physical plant, class sizes, support staff, etc. - that will ensure that great teachers are comfortable in their schools and will not be tempted to leave by better offers from outside the city.

Please take the lead in providing an excellent education for all students: implement the court-ordered funding plan this year, with no more stalling & no more excuses. You can begin with this year's budget.

Sincerely,

Ms. Frizzle

*****

You, too, can send the governor a message in support of the NYC public schools and the Campaign for Fiscal Equity. You can get more information about the lawsuit filed by CFE against the State of New York, and what's happened since then, at either of these two websites.

*****

I still stand by everything I wrote yesterday. My blog is a place for me to express myself in writing, not a bulletin board where other people can pin flyers. Imagine telling a photographer, "I've got a great picture for you to take - and here it is, will you put your name on it?" Or saying to a poet, "Here's a metaphor I want you to use in your next poem." At that point, no matter how amazing the photograph or apt the metaphor, I think most photographers or poets would decline.

But I want to make it absolutely clear that this organization is doing really important work on behalf of our kids. I sent my email; I hope you'll take a look at the information out there and think about sending one yourself. (Incidentally, there are rumors that Governor Pataki might be thinking about running for office on the national stage.... so I see no reason why people outside NY couldn't send him a reminder that his actions here are seen by the world).

Incidentally, Jenny D. (among others) received the same email that I did and asked some important questions. I agree with her that more money does not necessarily equal better schools, but I think that does not excuse a funding disparity that hurts the kids who are already hurting most.

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