How do we eliminate poverty in the next 20 years through education?
Tonight I asked this question at a meeting I attended in the 19th Ward, Rochester. The room comprised of education professionals. There were principals and teachers who all have connections to this very small portion of my Senate District, Rochester: 19th Ward.
I know this is a tough question that I asked but I think it’s important. Tonight was a start and tomorrow night, I’ll be attending the school board meeting to continue listening.
I learned a lot about the importance of neighborhood schools. If children attend the school near their home, success rates are higher. One of the challenges they face, is busing.
If a child, even a little one in kindergarten, lives closer than a mile and a half to a neighborhood school, they have to walk or get a ride. If the school did bus them, the school would not be reimbursed.
Because if this, many working parents end up making the decision to choose schools outside of their neighborhoods so busing is available to them. Why do parents do this? The realities of day-to-day life. Parents that have to get to work need to know that their children are on a bus safely headed to school. It also fills a block of time where a child is attended to, because they are on a bus. It also fills time on their way home from school.
Also, and most of us will agree with this, parents are concerned about their young ones walking a mile and a half to get to school. There are safety risks. So, they select a school outside of the neighborhood so their child has a safe way of getting there.
The sense of community and belonging with a neighborhood school is very important to the success rate. This might seem like a small thing but if we could provide busing or transportation so children are more apt to stay in their neighborhood schools, it’s a start.
Another problem : If teachers are white in schools that are comprised primarily of minorities there may be a disconnect. Some white teachers do not have life experiences of those in this community. A child, and from an at risk home, might be coming to school troubled because a brother got arrested the night before. Prior to jumping into math, a child might need time to decompress in order to be ready to begin their day productively. If a teacher does not easily recognize the signals, the child can easily lose a day that can’t be made up.
Staffing: Schools have one social worker for 400 or 500 students. What else can I say other than this is obscene. Some of our schools have amazing sports programs, new stadiums and every luxury. At risk neighborhood schools need multiple social workers to help children who struggle with challenges in their lives outside the classroom.
There is much more. We talked about the school to prison pipeline. Children’s 3rd grade reading scores help determine how many prisons will be needed in the future. This is sickening.
Moving forward, tomorrow at the school board meeting, I will listen and learn. Afterwords, I hope to connect with other leaders who will also share their thoughts with me.
We can do better. We must do better. Education is the key to success and the answers are out there.