As with my criticism of his understanding of the economy (by asking that the federal government just print more money to eradicate New York City’s debt), I believe de Blasio is fundamentally wrong about the purpose of public education. In Chicago, my parents were big supporters of the public school system and tried to stop the white public school flight. While we could afford private schools, I attended practically all of my pre-school education in public schools. They believed that public schools are important forums for shaping citizens in a diverse and shared education. I am a firm believer in public schools and we have all sent our children to public schools for the same reason.
Public education is not about the distribution of wealth. It should be a place for all families – wealthy and impoverished – to experience collective education, including important citizenship courses. This is the place where we shape future citizens. It is about offering all children a common and shared educational experience, not about laboratories for de Blasio’s experiments on social or economic reconstruction.
It is certainly true that all forms of social program involve the distribution of resources. However, public education is not about redistributing wealth. It is about guaranteeing a common education and opportunities for all citizens. The level of support depends on its educational function, not on a redistributive function.
As an educator of over thirty, I find de Blasio’s statement deeply worrying. Our schools and our children are not a means for de Blasio or others to recreate society. It’s highjacking our schools for their own agenda. Public schools struggle with poor test scores, particularly among minority students. We need to focus more on education rather than economics in our schools.