One of the recurring themes at the recent Program on Education Policy and Governance conference on improving education was that the more you expand the franchise (i.e. allow people to vote), the better the education. Good education seems to be one of the first things people with voting power demand.
Good education seems to be one of the first things people with voting power demand.
This is why I tend to see America’s current education free-fall as a sign of a diminished democracy as much as it is a pedagogical failure. And this is why a fight in East Ramapo Central School District, a growing suburb of New York City (just twenty miles north of Manhattan), is so fascinating.
As the New York Times’ Peter Applebome describes it in Saturday’s paper, Orthodox Jews have taken over the district’s school board (they have seven of nine seats). The problem? Eighty-five percent of the students in the district schools are black or Hispanic. Even worse, reports Applebome, most of the Jews in the district send their children to private schools (where the enrollment is 19,000, compared to 8,000 students in the public schools).
Not surprisingly, a group called Padres Unidos has petitioned the State Education Department to remove the Jewish board members and, also not surprisingly, Ramapo board president David Schwartz called the group, in Applebome’s words, “chronic complainers.” The cultural, ethnic, and socio-economic divide problem is complicated by finance questions. Not only has board president Daniel Schwartz suggested eliminating...