Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The innovation schools proposal should be rejected by the School Committee - by Bruce Ditata

A few years ago when extending the school day was all the rage, a SouthCoast middle school — toying with the idea of starting a pilot program — invited a Department of Education spokesperson to explain its underpinnings.

After an informative seminar about how the extended day would offer hands-on programs, including cooking, woodshop, sewing and the like, an intrepid teacher at the school raised her hand to make an inquiry of the enthusiastic presenter.

"Do you mean to say that what you're offering after school are things that we used to have here, but were taken away because of budget cuts?"

The clarity of the query, a laser beam to the heart of funding cuts over the past 20 years or so, did not elicit an answer, because, in a word, the answer was a definitive "Yes."

It is a well-known factoid of the Massachusetts public school system that poorer districts, including New Bedford, are unable to sustain much-needed activities from traditional offerings that during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s were givens.

So the opposition to innovation schools in New Bedford is well-founded. Essentially, what will happen if the proposed schools come to pass is that they drain much-needed funding from the district while returning programs previously cut from the budget, like foreign language and integrated arts to a new genre of school, while the traditional schools still go without. Where is the innovation in that scenario?

In The Standard-Times' "Innovation Schools Battle Rages On" (April 2), community activist Eddie Johnson likens innovation schools to the disgraceful, segregated "separate but equal" schools of the Deep South.

"If it takes litigation to address the matter, so be it," Mr. Johnson is quoted in the article.

What he is referring to is the inherent inequality represented by the haves and have-nots in today's struggle to provide quality education to all children.

The well-burnished image of innovation schools, portrayed as grandiose examples of change and hope for kids is, largely, a mirage because they perpetuate inequalities. Wealthy school districts like Wellesley, Brookline and Newton get integrated arts and hands-on courses as routine offerings. Poor districts, like New Bedford, get budget cuts and loss of programs across the board.

In the famous, ground-breaking Brown v. Board of Education decision, striking down "separate but equal" in American public schools, the key, enduring phrase of the majority decision was penned by Supreme Court Justice, Earl Warren.

"Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal," he wrote. Restoring funding to all the schools so they can offer equal opportunity to all the children is the path to quality education. The so-called innovation schools proposal is not the answer to the problem and ought to be rejected by the School Committee when the matter comes to a vote next week.


Anonymous said...

Pure Perfection. What we accomplish with what we are given is incredible. Imagine if we had what learners in other districts have? We would outperform them! We already have bilingual, artistic, intelligent, and resilient children here. They deserve MORE not LESS! Every school, every day, EVERY YEAR

Donald Rei said...

I heard from supporters of the I.S. that if it works they will spread it district wide. At the same time they say that it has been tried all over the country and it works great. The teachers know that more art language and gym help students. Stop trying to divide the schools and give all students what everyone agrees they need.