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Denying decent schools to NYC students

July 12, 2002 | Page 4

Dear Socialist Worker,

Last week, a New York State appeals court ruled that New York City students do not deserve any more than the bare minimum when it comes to their education.

Because New York public schools are funded based on property taxes, political dealing, and arcane mathematical formulas, inner-city schools are left with sometimes as little as one-third of the funding of public schools in wealthy suburbs.

A well-known court decision last year ruled that New York City's schools were terribly inadequate and grossly underfunded, and ordered the state to come up with a more equal system of funding. But last week's appellate court decision declared that the state is only required to provide students with an education sufficient to ensure that they have "the ability to function productively"--which the court said "should be interpreted as the ability to get a job, and support oneself, and thereby not be a charge on the public fisc."

According to the court, this means a seventh- or eighth-grade education. In other words, New York City students who attend public schools--a great many of whom are poor and people of color--only deserve enough education to prepare them for the lowest-paying, least-desirable jobs. In fact, the Court came right out and said, "Society needs workers in all levels of jobs, the majority of which may very well be low level."

It's not a surprise that the "Justice" who wrote the decision, Alfred D. Lerner, was appointed by Governor Pataki--a man who has made a career out of making sure that inner-city students attend crumbling schools that lack textbooks and are staffed by underpaid teachers.

The idea that there is not enough money for schools is a sick joke. The government has plenty of money for surveillance cameras to police us, and to pummel people in Afghanistan and anywhere the U.S. wants to take its war of terror.

Clearly the education of children and decent pay for teachers isn't a priority for the people who run this society. It is time to demand that New York City students and teachers get the education, resources and support they deserve.

Sarah Hines, New York City

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