In addition to having a single point of entry guarded by multiple armed police officers, or if need be, military veterans, and a mandate that schools install bulletproof and locking doors to each classroom, recruiting and training responsible middle and high school students is the next logical step.

Deploying highly trained and armed middle and high school students, fully prepared for combat situations, into every school in America will put an immediate stop to the terrible events we’ve witnessed over the past decade, or so.

Never forget: “A well trained Student Militia, being necessary to the security of our public Schools, the right of the middle and high school students to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

A public service announcement brought to you by The Ted Cruz Academy of School Safety

Some Thoughts on CPAC 2022

February 28, 2022

Has our education system failed us?

Over the past 3 decades, the U.S. has slowly lost its edge as the world leader in public education.  U.S. student proficiency in science and math – generally thought to be the foundation for independent and critical thinking – is mediocre, at best.

In a recent international comparison of achievement among 15 year old students from 71 countries, U.S. students ranked 36th in math, and 24th in science.

Some of these students — who have already been denied a rigorous education – are most vulnerable to inculcation and indoctrination.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that young adults who lack independent and/or critical thinking skills are likely to become the next generation of CPAC attendees.

Donald Trump is an expert communicator, highly skilled in techniques which are frequently cited by experts in mind control.

Trump focuses on a small number of issues which are emotionally important to a narrow group of people who feel lost or disenfranchised.

His communications are intended to provide understanding, comfort and answers to his audience, thus to gain their trust, despite often vague solutions to the identified problems.  Here are a few actual and verified Trump communiques (in no particular chronological order) which may have helped rally and solidify his audience:

  • “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”
  • “I am the only one who can make America truly great again.”
  • “This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps, and our GW scientists are stuck in ice.”
  • “I’m intelligent. Some people would say I’m very, very, very intelligent.”
  • “Sorry losers and haters, but my IQ is one of the highest – and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure; it’s not your fault.”
  • “We need a president with tremendous intelligence, smarts, cunning, strength and stamina.”
  • “Obama and his attack dogs have nothing but hate and anger in their hearts and spew it whenever possible.”
  • “I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”
  • “I’m the least racist person you have ever interviewed.”
  • “I have a great relationship with African Americans, as you possibly have heard. I just have great respect for them. And they like me. I like them.”
  • “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
  • “[John McCain is]… not a war hero. He’s a war hero – he’s a war hero ’cause he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, OK, I hate to tell you.”
  • “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”
  • “Crooked Hillary Clinton is the worst (and biggest) loser of all time. She just can’t stop, which is so good for the Republican Party. Hillary, get on with your life and give it another try in 3 years!”
  • “Russia will have much greater respect for our country when I am leading it than when other people have led it… If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability, because we have a horrible relationship with Russia.”
  • “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”
  • “We can’t let people down when they can’t get any medical care, when they’re sick and don’t have money to go to a doctor. You help them.”
  • “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides.” [post-Charlottesville, VA; 2017].
  • “Corporations are literally going wild over this, I think even beyond my expectations.” [Tax Cuts and Jobs Act; 2017]
  • “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. It’s going to be just fine.” [Re: Covid-19:  Jan. 2020]
  • “We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election. We will never let them do it. Votes cannot be cast after the Polls are closed!”
  • “So, look, all I want to do, is I want to find 11,780 votes.”
  • “We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
  • “This election was rigged. And the Supreme Court and other courts didn’t want to do anything about it.”
  • “Nobody has done more for Christianity or for evangelicals — or for religion itself — than I have.”
  • “They say, ‘Trump said Putin’s smart.’ I mean, he’s taking over a country for two dollars’ worth of sanctions. I’d say that’s pretty smart. He’s taking over a country — really a vast, vast location, a great piece of land with a lot of people, and just walking right in.”
  • “As grave as the dangers are abroad, it’s the destruction within that spells our doom. Our most dangerous people are people from within. These are people that must hate our country because they make us weak. They indoctrinate your children to hate their parents while calling you a hateful racist. They use big tech to censor you. They use the deep state to spy on you. They use the intelligence agencies to frame you. They use the media to slander you. They use the legal system to persecute you. It is a persecution. They use rigged elections to disenfranchise you and destroy you and ruin your lives.”

Yes, Mr. Trump.  If we follow your lead, we must fear the left-wing fascists and dumb political leaders from within.  Some have said that these dumb political leaders are ‘truly evil people’ who are ‘afraid to do the right thing.’

Meanwhile, others have singled out a contingent of Republican elected officials – including: Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida; Sen. Bill Hagerty of Tennessee; Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana; Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma; Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida; former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas; Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio; Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, and several more.

Concurrent with the CPAC conference, Rep. Greene distinguished herself as a speaker at a white supremacist event — the America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC) – also held in Florida.

Guests at the AFPAC conference openly cheered Russian President Vladimir Putin, and approved comparisons between Putin and Adolf Hitler, while calling the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol “awesome.”

Despite a subsequent statement from the RNC Chairwoman saying “white supremacy, neo-Nazism, hate speech and bigotry are disgusting and do not have a home in the Republican Party,” there was no rebuke of Marjorie Taylor Greene by name.

Yes, Mr. Trump.  There may be some left-wing fascists and dumb political leaders who were elected as Democrats.  If you could take just a moment to identify them and accurately describe their aberrant behavior(s), that would really be great.

Yet, we have irrefutable media evidence of public officials who were elected as Republicans and who have gone out of their way to favor Mr. Putin over our elected president.

Best I know:  This is clear essence of sedition, perhaps emanating a whiff of treason.

Perhaps, Mr. Trump, you will take a few moments to respond to these conclusions drawn from real facts?

George Orwell was right.

January 30, 2022

If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.

The School Board in McMinn County, Tennessee recently announced a decision to ban author and creator Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus from their eighth-grade curriculum.

McMinn County, TN may be a poster child for the current divisiveness in America.

This rural county is home to just 54,000 residents and until very recently, was over 90% white.

As a whole, the State of Tennessee has been, and remains, predominantly Christian. About 81% of the population identifies as Christian, and 52% of Tennessee residents identify as Evangelical Protestants.

Plagued by the legacy of a mediocre public education system, poverty is rampant in McMinn County: Over 17% of residents live below the poverty line, including 24% of children (under 18) and 12% of seniors (65 and over).

The McMinn County School Board recent action helps to reinforce the notion that adults who themselves are products of a mediocre public education system are often incapable of making sound and fully informed decisions based on solid facts.  Or, we might say that these folks have been deprived of critical thinking skills due to the inadequacy of their public school system.

Over the past decade, we have witnessed an alarming increase in public displays of frustration, rebellion and even violence among adults who are constrained by the toxic combination of extreme religious ideologies and vulnerability to unreliable or false sources for (mis)information.

George Orwell was correct, and only WE can prevent the vociferous minority from subsuming the will of the majority.

America’s Teachers

April 12, 2018

America’s teachers have notoriously been underpaid relative to their peer group. The excuses include, (a) Flexibility; (b) Summers off; (c) a profession dominated by women (and we all know that women earn about 80% of what men earn for comparable experience in similar jobs).

If I were a young person approaching college graduation, I might look at starting salary, and projections for advancement over the course of my career.

If I did that, teaching would not likely be on my list of job choices.

According to a study published by US News and World Report looking at the best jobs for 2018 college graduates, there are dozens of opportunities which absolutely blow away starting salaries for teachers, which seem to be in the $38k range.

One random example is an entry level Financial Analyst in the area of investment banking, private banking and the securities industry. The highest paid in the financial analyst profession work in the metropolitan areas of San Francisco, New York City, and San Luis Obispo, California. The Stamford /Bridgeport, CT area also pays well, as does the city of Salem, Oregon.

San Francisco      $141,840
New York City     $133,130
San Luis Obispo, CA  $120,750
Bridgeport (Stamford), CT   $120,520
Salem, Oregon            $120,150

These are median starting salaries for newly minted graduates.  What’s most egregious about this?

On a really good day, financial analysts provide zero economic value-added to our overall economy and society; on a bad day, they can cause catastrophic damage. Financial analysts produce no tangible outputs; they endeavor to discover and exploit financial opportunities to benefit their firm and its clients at the expense of other individuals.

Teachers bring value every day, yet they are generally under-respected and certainly, under-compensated. Teachers are the mechanism by which we build future intellectual capital to benefit future generations in and across the U.S.

Some may argue that this example attempts to pit Capitalism against Socialism:  Nice try on that one!

Pure capitalism relies on the premise that private capital, invested strategically, adds value to the overall economy and society, while providing a fair and reasonable profit to the capitalist(s).

Pure socialism requires a government controlled population of workers to both plan and operate the system; true socialism requires government control of all economic as well as political and public affairs.

By levying fair and reasonable income taxes on excess or suspicious profits, a nation is able to re-invest those taxes into strategic and forward-focused programs and initiatives, such things as: bridges; tunnels; airports; rail rapid transit; healthcare research and innovations; and public education – including teacher quality and teacher compensation.

Teachers need to re-focus their compensation and resource allocation argument toward pure economics.

It strikes me that the message needs to be:  “High quality, well-compensated teachers who are provided with appropriate and needed classroom resources help to shape and create the next generation of high-performance, highly motivated and productive citizens our nation will need to ensure future economic and political success.
There is no substitute for a ready and reliable supply of intellectual capital waiting in the wings to take charge in the coming decades.”

High on the Hogg

April 1, 2018

David Hogg, the Parkland student who has become one of the most vocal leaders in the March For Our Lives movement, has explained their position and their mission,

“I want people to understand, we’re not trying to take your guns, we’re not against the second amendment; we don’t want to repeal the second amendment. We simply want gun legislation in this country that allows law-abiding citizens to still own guns but prevents people with a history of mental illness or a history of a criminal background from owning a firearm. It’s as simple as that.”

I think the last real, sustained and almost universal call to action by America’s youth occurred in the late ’60’s – early ’70’s when large-scale opposition to U.S. military involvement in SE Asia was the focal point.

Sure, there have been many other issues, causes, protests, rallies, etc. in the ensuing years, but I am not aware of anything quite as promising as the current March for our Lives movement.

One of the great outcomes thus far is contained within the Laura Ingraham debacle.

On her broadcast television show, Laura Ingraham personally attacked David Hogg regarding his academics.

Within 2 days after Ingraham attacked him personally, Hogg organized a successful boycott of her advertisers.

Nothing personal, he remarked. We are just following the money. Take away the money, and the show will disappear.

Brilliant!

Jessica Bakeman reports on politics and education policy in Capital New York’s Albany bureau. In a recent article focused on MaryEllen Elia, our recently appointed New York State Education Commissioner, Ms. Bakeman reflects on what may be a new strategy to fix the persistent problem of failing schools in pockets around the State.

In essence, Ms. Elia’s plan seems to rely on a “tough love” approach with district leaders and parents from the lowest performing NYS schools: ‘You have 2 years to fix these failing schools, or the state will do it for you’.  http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/07/8572658/elia-delivers-tough-message-leaders-struggling-schools

Unlike some observers, I strongly believe that the root cause of failing schools is not directly linked to teachers, administrators or common core.

The primary failure begins when we as a society allow virtually all of our lower-income children to be concentrated into just a few school districts — while continuing to operate dozens of boutique public school districts which serve children from predominantly upper income households.

Extensive research tells us that if we continue to follow this model, it will ensure that the achievement gap will continue to grow.

Whether accomplished through housing choice or school choice: economic, social and cultural integration at the K-12 level has been proven to be the best solution to close the achievement gap.

New York State allows and encourages public school districts to form around — and to exclusively serve — residents of villages, towns, neighborhoods and cities. The impact of this ‘home rule’ approach to public education has created de facto segregation which has produced more egregious and dangerous consequences than the issues debated in the Brown vs. Board of Education case which was decided in 1954 – 60+ years ago!

We can witness how “Separate and Unequal” has become the standard across New York State, very clearly corroborated by NYS Education Department statistics which prove that economic and racial segregation in housing translates directly to school inequality, which results in disparate student outcomes.

There really is no place for personal or private agendas on the part of our appointed and elected officials. Public officials are expected to set a positive example for all people, affirming that our elected leadership is fair, honest and forward thinking.

It may very well be that Commissioner Elia — appointed by the NYS Board of Regents — has been tasked with sweeping the truth under the rug, because she is not talking about the only viable solution, which is to reform NYS Education regulations, many of which date to the late 19th Century.

I can grasp the enlightened self-interest of homeowners in Pittsford, Scarsdale, Briarcliff Manor, Bronxville (or in dozens of other public school districts in NYS which serve students from upper income households) who want to fight for their autonomy to keep ‘those other children’ out of their schools.

These are the very same wealthy and politically active adults who wield undue influence over our elected officials in Albany.

With that said, I’m dubious that any meaningful reform can take place until the specter of political influence is removed from our public education system.

Bowing to extraordinary pressure from both the Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish blocs, NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo has put his weight behind an ‘education Tax Credit’ proposal that is just plain wrong.

No matter how you slice this, it is not just wrong, it is also unconstitutional.

Our federal and state constitutions mandate certain services be provided to all residents and citizens, services which include public education.

Sometimes, economists view the shifting a tax burden required to provide sufficient funding to ensure provision of adequate and acceptable services from one taxing entity to another in order to create the illusion of a tax cut or a public cost savings as a “Zero Sum Game.”

This proposed tax credit program is certainly NOT a zero sum game.

The sole beneficiaries of this proposed tax credit charade will be those families – and their allies and supporters – who elect to eschew the free and publicly supported education system which is intended and expected to provide all children in New York State the opportunity for a “sound basic education,” defined as a meaningful high school education that prepares students for competitive employment and civic participation .

When Rhode Island adopted an education tax credit program a few years back, it resulted in a windfall for the state’s two Jewish day schools. Between them, their students received some $400,000 in scholarship money in the program’s first year.

In Florida, tax credit legislation has resulted in nearly $10 million annually for scholarships for Jewish day schools and yeshiva students.

Now New York, which has some 150,000 Jewish day school and yeshiva students — more than all the other states combined — has a chance of getting an education tax credit program that could deliver millions of dollars annually to Jewish day school families.

Another primary beneficiary of this proposed tax credit program will be supporters of private Catholic schools which have been plagued with declining enrollment and decreased core funding from the Church for several decades.

Offering a small number of self-selecting individuals the option to designate (Read:  Divert) up to 75% of their NY State Tax Liability to fund private religious schools is just plain wrong.

Despite the noble intent of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, public schools in New York State are more segregated today than they have ever been in the past 60+ years.

Whether we measure segregation from a racial, religious or economic perspective, it seems clear that some of our students come to school each day ready to learn, and other students face significant barriers which stand between them and educational success.

There are libraries filled with academic research that points to positive parental involvement as the primary force to ensure student success in school.

Most experts agree that when parents promote reading activities at home, the ripple effect goes beyond reading achievement, language comprehension and expressive language skills to positively impact pupils’ interest in reading, attitudes towards reading and attentiveness in the classroom.

The fact is: Family and home life have more bearing on student achievement than anything else.

Classroom teachers have an important role to play, but when confronted in their classroom by a majority of young people who are not prepared, not ready and not inspired to learn, even SuperTeacher faces a Sisyphean task.

From a purely mathematical (statistical/scientific) perspective, it is not possible to use a standardized test to compare groups of anything – including students – when the subjects of comparison lack a common foundation and have insufficient common attributes.

My point is that while elected officials, union members and many others are busy throwing mud at each other, the real issue of ‘failing schools’ has little to do with teachers, and much to do with economic segregation in residential housing patterns across New York State.

The 700 +/- public school districts in NYS serve some 2.7 Million students in some 4,500 public schools (including public charter schools).

Governor Cuomo’s office very recently released an extensive and well-researched report, “The State of New York’s Failing Schools”.

In just over 200 pages, the Report points out many symptoms of a public education system in NYS which is working for some, but leaving way too many students unprepared to become productive citizens.

The Report focuses in on 178 “priority” or “failing” schools in 17 school districts in New York. It says, “Ninety-three percent of students in failing schools are students of color and 82 percent of these students are eligible for free or reduced price lunch. Student achievement today at failing schools lags behind state averages in every category”.

Somehow, the Report did not really get to the core of the issue: How to address the concentration of disadvantaged and disenfranchised students in these 178 failing schools — just 4% of the overall number of schools in NYS.

While I think there has been some roll-back on the original proposal from Governor Cuomo’s office to tie teacher evaluations more closely to student achievement as measured by standardized test scores, I remain concerned that the debate around Common Core Standards and standardized testing continues to divide parents and other adults in New York State.

It is my belief that the intent of Common Core is really centered on a return to requiring that our students develop and use critical thinking skills.

For the last 40 years, or so, our public education system has relied primarily on Multiple Choice and/or True/False as a way to measure educational achievement.

The shift to Common Core, which relies much more on analysis and critical thinking, is a shock to many adults who were raised on Multiple Choice.

The Common Core State Standards is a set of high-quality academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA). These learning goals outline what a student should know — and be able to articulate — at the end of each grade.

The standards were created through a bi-partisan, multi-state collaborative including teachers, school chiefs, administrators, and other experts to provide a clear and consistent framework for educators to ensure that all students across the U.S. have access to the information and resources they need to graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live.

One key role for the elected officials in our NYS Legislature is to ensure that real facts about Common Core Standards and subsequent testing are conveyed and explained to NY residents in a calm and rational way.

Another key role for our Legislature is to ensure that sufficient resources – including new and emerging paradigms – are made available to the 178 priority (or failing) schools in 17 school districts in New York.

As Governor Cuomo’s report, “The State of Failing Schools” points out: It’s not about money.

Some claim that their magic solution involves an unproven model such as: Charter Schools; Teach for America; Say Yes to Education; School Vouchers; Private School Tax Credits; or one of many other ‘snake oil’ solutions.

We are so fortunate in New York State to have some of the best colleges and universities, and some of the most experienced experts on teaching and child development.

Why are we – the residents, voters and taxpayers of New York State – left holding the bag: paying the most of any state in the U.S. per pupil, and achieving mediocre results?

I don’t think it has much of anything to do with teacher quality or teacher evaluations.

I think our approach to delivery of public education in New York State is obsolete, and until we are able to honestly and openly evaluate the system, and to seek optimum configuration, we will continue to spend too much; achieve mediocre results; and have this debate long into the future.

Many thanks to those elected officials who have taken the time and put some attention to this critical issue, and please feel welcome to contact me with any questions or concerns on my commentary.

When the Walrus was just a pup, he attended public schools in Buffalo, NY.

Back then, the best teachers encouraged their students to achieve subject mastery not through rote memorization but through active learning. In general, ‘subjects’ were not taught (or learned) in isolation. There was some integration of ELA into Social Studies; math into science; and reading and writing skills were the foundation for all learning.

Somehow, over the past 4 decades or so, our American education system (in aggregate) has deteriorated to the point where in a recent study conducted by The Economist, the U.S. was ranked 17th in an assessment of the education systems of 50 countries, behind several Scandinavian and Asian countries. Finland was ranked first, followed by South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan, with Singapore coming in fifth. The once-admired public education system in America has reached an unprecedented – and hopefully, unwanted – level of mediocrity.

If we look at public education outcomes by state, we find a wide disparity in student outcomes. In its most recent report on the status of education in all 50 states, Education Week found that Massachusetts is our top performing state, followed closely by Maryland and New Jersey.

Bringing up the rear at number 50 is Mississippi, just slightly worse than Louisiana and New Mexico.

The differences from state to state on some critical measurements are staggering.

Just 59.4% of students in New Mexico graduate from High School, where in Vermont, 85% of students graduate.

It is widely accepted that at-grade reading and math proficiency in the 4th grade is a strong predictor of success in school and in life. Maryland is the best performing state in the U.S. on 4th grade reading skills, yet just 45% of Maryland fourth graders demonstrated at-grade proficiency.

45% is the highest in our country? And, that is more than 10 percentage points higher than the national average?

Of course, we can drill down even further, looking within states as the disparity of student outcomes by district, or within districts, outcomes by school or by teacher.

The facts on disparate student outcomes were part of the inspiration which brought together state leaders — including governors and state commissioners of education from 48 states — to seek solutions to this national crisis.

The state-led effort to develop the Common Core State Standards was launched in 2009, through a collaborative partnership involving the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).

The goal is very simple. Implementation of the Standards will refocus schools toward ensuring that students acquire skills which are useful in college and in life. Life is not a series of multiple choice or true/false questions. Critical thinking and reading skills, focused on nonfiction and current event articles rather than fiction, provide a foundation for college, career and success in life.

Understanding the raw components of how to do math problems using logic is much more valuable than memorizing formulas, and it provides the foundation for problem solving across multiple disciplines.

We know that multiple-choice tests are best used for testing well-defined or lower-order skills. Problem-solving and higher-order reading and reasoning skills are better assessed through short-answer and essay tests.

Yet, no matter how you slice it, multiple choice tests are more affordable for testing large numbers of students. In most of the United States, multiple choice tests have become the default form of “high-stakes testing”.

How it came to be that our public education system devolved away from active learning and critical thinking into a series of “drill and kill” classroom exercises followed by mind-numbing multiple choice and true-false tests must somehow be related to the amount of resources required to read, analyze and objectively grade essays and ‘show your work’ problems.

There is also the issue of cost and scale as class sizes have generally increased, school district resources are stretched, and the complexity of material has expanded.

Let’s face it: a standard answer sheet marked with a #2 pencil can be machine graded, and the ability to collect and analyze the data is unmatched.

On the other hand, multiple choice tests are very rigid. Misinterpretation of the problem or information presented by the test maker can result in a false “wrong”, even when the student’s answer has some validity. Similarly, when students have some knowledge of a subject or question, they receive no credit for knowing that information if they select the wrong answer and the item is scored by a machine.

Just a few years ago, some of the best and brightest educators and public officials from across the U.S. launched an intensive collaborative partnership to develop the Common Core State Standards as a means to repair our failing public education system.

The state-led effort was launched in 2009, under the guidance of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Here we are today, just a few weeks away from the beginning of the 2014-15 school year for some 48 Million K-12 public school students across our 50 states.

A large and growing coalition of Monday Morning Quarterbacks – most of whom I suspect were raised on multiple-choice and deprived of active learning and/or critical thinking – have begun to rally in opposition to Common Core.

Very recently, noted media personality Glenn Beck – himself a high-school graduate – added his voice to the nay-sayers about Common Core.

Beck tells us that, “American children shouldn’t be tracked, monitored, and educated from D.C. And parents should have a voice in their child’s education. Common Core standards threaten parents’ rights, children’s privacy, and traditional American values.”

Great rhetoric with no substance; and it fails the critical thinking test.

But it is emotionally appealing to some, and clearly falls into the “True or False, Multiple Choice Method to Maintain International Mediocrity in Education” model.

Want to help destroy the fabric of America? You don’t need weapons of mass destruction or any sort of acts of terrorism. Just keep depriving our children of the opportunity for active learning and/or critical thinking skills they so desperately need to lead a productive and meaningful life.

Separate and Unequal

April 27, 2014

 

Westchester County in New York State seems to attract a great deal of attention in the media.

 

Not long ago, we learned from a posting on Zillow that property owners in Westchester County pay more in property taxes than the typical resident of any other major American county. The average property tax bill for a single family home in Westchester County comes to $14,829 a year (vs. the U.S. median of about $2,800).

 

There are a number of reasons why property taxes in Westchester County NY are the highest in the nation, but the primary reason is property taxes levied to support public schools.

In a county with a population of just under a million residents, Westchester County taxpayers are supporting some 47 completely autonomous public school districts!

 

Very recently, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino made headlines because he continues to battle the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) over compliance with a consent decree approved in 2009 which requires Westchester County to take an active and affirmative role in desegregating local villages and towns in the county which have miniscule populations of African American and Hispanic residents.

 

Some commentators have applauded Astorino for defying the federal government under the guise that, “(Astorino) is doing his job by protecting the neighborhoods of those who worked very hard to live where they live!”

 

I’m fine with the notion that people ought to be able to live where they want to live.

 

However, because New York State allows and encourages public school districts to form around — and to exclusively serve residents of — villages, towns and cities, the impact of this ‘home rule’ approach to public education has created de facto segregation which has produced more egregious and dangerous consequences than the issues debated in the Brown vs. Board of Education case which was decided in 1954 – 60 years ago!

 

We can clearly witness that “Separate and Unequal” has become the standard in Westchester County.

 

It becomes very clear from reviewing NYS Education Department statistics that economic and racial segregation in housing translates directly to school inequality and results in disparate student outcomes.

 

The Village of Scarsdale is one of the communities identified in the Housing Agreement (consent decree) as racially segregated, and thus a priority area for new units of fair and affordable housing.

 

A report released in late April from US News and World Report reveals that Scarsdale High School was ranked among the very best high schools in Westchester County; in New York State; and across our nation.

 

In Scarsdale, no students at the High School receive subsidized meals, and just 9% of students are Black or Hispanic. About 8% of Scarsdale students have been classified with a disability, and 68% of those students spend 80% or more of their school time in regular classroom settings. Most recent total per-pupil spending across the Scarsdale schools was $27,219, with $17,450 focused on general education students.

 

Meanwhile, just 5 miles south of Scarsdale High School is Mount Vernon High School, where 70% of students receive subsidized meals, and where 95% of students are Black or Hispanic.

 

About 16% of Mount Vernon Students have been classified with a disability, and just 48% of those students spend 80% or more of their school time in regular classroom settings.

 

Most recent total per-pupil spending across the Mount Vernon public schools was $23,560, with just $11,641 centered on general education students.

 

The real test may be in graduation rates.  For the class of 2012, 95% of Scarsdale seniors graduated with Regents diplomas; at Mount Vernon High School, just 52% of seniors graduated with a Regents diploma.

 

The attitudes and actions of public officials should set a positive example for all people, affirming that our elected leadership is fair, honest and forward thinking.

 

There really is no place in our current society for personal private agendas – working against the general public good – on the part of our elected officials.

 

Municipal and school district consolidation seems to be the only rational resolution — why is this solution so difficult to discuss and resolve?