Education in an Era of Institutional Collapse II
It’s happening, just as I predicted in this post after the 25/55 pension deal passed for New York City teachers. The New York Times reports that desperate middle class parents are responding to the financial degradation of the public schools by forming underground education co-ops. Providing for themselves, outside the formal structure and at risk of persecution from it, the education they pay taxes for after those taxes were diverted to the early retired. According to the article, the underground is in pre-K, which was supposed to become “universal” but never has been. “For parents like us, options are limited. Private pre-K can run more than $30,000 a year at the fanciest schools. Depending on the neighborhood, spaces with community-based organizations — private preschools that partner with the state and accept state subsidies but handle their own applications — can be as elusive as public pre-K spots. If home schooling is daunting, and if not schooling feels wrong, the only other choice, it seems, is to join the legions of parents who have taken matters into their own hands and formed co-ops.”
Today pre-K, tomorrow grade school and more. Not because it is better or even good, not because teachers aren’t needed or wanted, but because that is what will be left in the aftermath of Generation Greed. With the benefit of information technology and unemployed would-be teachers with no choice but to help out and work for peanuts, it might work for children with educated parents. For the rest, forget it, and kiss equal opportunity goodbye.
Let’s quote from my original post, Education in an Era of Institutional Collapse. “I have described the future of public services and benefits as ‘privatization’ and ‘placardization.’ By placardization, I mean that to the extent that public sector has anything worthwhile to offer, it will not be able to afford to offer it universally, and it will be allocated instead to insiders and those with connections by a variety of means. The way scarce parking is allocated to those with the connections to get placards, legal and illegal. By “privatization” I do not mean that the government will provide universal, equal benefits by hiring private contractors rather than public employees, as it does in the Medicare program or under a school voucher program. I mean that those who have the resources to provide what were once public services for themselves will be permitted to do so (as long as they are grateful for that permission), while those who lack such resources will be left to do without.”
Speaking of the need for permission and gratitude, according to the Times “in New York, advertisements for co-op schools pepper online parent groups once every month or two, especially in spring or early summer. But you will mostly hear about them quietly, on the playground or on play dates. Sometimes the groups are low-key because the school is formed by a circle of friends and there is no need for other children to join. The other big reason is their questionable legality…and in many cases, forming a co-op school is illegal, because getting the required permits and passing background checks can be so prohibitively expensive and time-consuming that most co-ops simply don’t.”
Hint hint. Campaign contributions to incumbent state legislators, and possibly “donations” to the UFT in exchange for "assistance."
Again, from the post several years ago. “The second difference between the future and the 1970s is that more middle-class families without connections and special deals, as a result of other social trends, might choose to live in New York City rather than flee to the suburbs, and the collapsing parochial school system, which was a lifeboat for the past 40 years, will not be there to serve them at anything like the current tuition levels. Here the ‘privatization’ half of the projected future comes in. Of course those who are sufficiently affluent will be able to afford expensive private schools, but there is likely to be a shortage of positions in such schools in addition to, for most families, a shortage of cash to pay for them. For the middle class, the only option -- one I thought about myself back in the previous semi-institutional collapse of the mid-1990s when my children were denied the public school education we had paid for -- is assisted home schooling.”
“As I described previously, if New York City’s current instructional spending per child of $11,400 in FY 2006 was used to hire home-based teachers who lived in their neighborhood and taught children in their homes, the way people hire music teachers and tutors, those teachers could be given $136,800 to teach 12 children -- for their wages, health insurance, IRA contribution, and teaching materials. If the parents were willing to pay for after-school and summer care, and the teachers were willing to provide it, they could earn additional money over and above the $136,800 just to sit in the park while the kids played or be around as the did their homework or played games. And they would have a class size of 12. There will be no such public funds for homeschoolers in the future, however, because the public retirement crisis in the school system will drain all the money off. Instead, in addition to facing a much higher tax burden, tomorrow’s parents will have to fund such arrangements themselves.”
“The support of employers for flexible schedules will be critical, because having one parent stay home to educate their children, like a ‘Gossip Girl’ private school, is a luxury few middle class parents will be able to afford -- especially at tomorrow’s tax levels. Instead, expect parents to band together in groups of eight to ten, with one parent from each family working a four day week or nine days in two weeks. These parents could educate the children as a group, they way supplemental child care was provided by the babysitting co-op we were in during our children’s pres-school days. In addition to supervising the children’s education on their non-work days, the parents would each pay perhaps $3,000 per year (in today’s money) for a professional teacher -- who wouldn’t get anything like the $136,800 per year described above -- to provide assistance. Assisting 25 such children in this way, such a teacher could earn $75,000 per year, with some perhaps under the table in cash or handed over as ‘gifts.’” Without health or retirement benefits of course, and probably without Social Security of Medicare the way the federal government is going.
I predicted that those who went this route would be at first persecuted and then supported by a city desperate to avoid the cost of providing services while continuing to have residents to tax. And acknowledging that given the quality of education it could afford to provide, parents would have no choice. “Expect the NYC public schools to eventually provide their own textbooks and lesson plans to willing parents, with a far more demanding schedule of student assignments than its teachers will be required to assign.” And according to the New York Times, one City Councilmember is already ahead of the curve. “There’s a fairly stringent code and byzantine process for getting certified and code-compliant,” said City Councilman Brad Lander, a Democrat from Brooklyn, whose office held a meeting over the summer for any co-ops interested in pooling their resources and securing permits. “Some are genuinely for the safety of kids, and some are more debatable.”
The diminished future will not be announced, nor will there be a "decision" to bring it into being. Just a series of non-decisions to pay for the past deals, followed by adaptations. Ah well, this transit buff and former New York City Transit employee has completed his work for the week here at the office. It’s time to take the nine mile trip home. On a bike I pedal myself.
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