I am the product of a public school education. My earliest, most formative years were spent in the public school system, paid for by local taxpayers. At my school I learned about leadership as co-founder of an all-girls floor hockey team, a safety patrol officer and after-school, as a girl scout. We learned about Earth Day, Greek mythology, and Anansi the Spider. We learned how to make origami and visited the Liberty Science Center.
It was also in public school that I struggled to learn to read. My learning difficulties were observed and I was sorted into the multisensory learning classroom, where we participated, visualized, and listened to the material being taught. We lived it. In that supportive environment, I learned to read. Still, in middle school, I was given an extra study hall to be able to process and complete my assignments on time. By High School, I was an honors student. The system did right by me – I am a public school success story.
I was lucky. I grew up in the 1990s in a middle class, suburban neighborhood and the economy was thriving. Language barriers were not an issue for me, as both my parents are native English speakers. My parents did not have to pay a lot of money for a private tutor – I received the support I needed during school hours.
For many schools facing budgeting issues, supplemental programming is cut first. Many times this means extra academic support initiatives and arts enrichment programs which enhance classroom learning. We all know that investing in a child’s education gives them their best chance for long-term success.
Unfortunately, a child’s chance for success in a public school can vary greatly depending on where they live. In New York City, 1 in 2 third-graders read below grade level. Research has shown that poverty plays a big role in determining a child’s ability to access quality education and their potential to succeed, as growing up in poverty can impact their mental and behavioral well-being along with their overall access to healthcare. In addition to where the child lives, their access to a good education can depend on ethnicity, with children of color disproportionately affected.
These statistics are depressing, but don’t let your only response be despair – there are lots of ways that you can help! Numerous nonprofit organizations work to fill the funding gaps that remain between available government funding and cost. Your investment can help another child become a public school success story. Make a donation, become an advocate or tutor a child. Check out these organizations which are doing great work to help ensure public education is a viable option for all youth:
- DonorsChoose.org – DonorsChoose.org is an online charity that makes it easy for anyone to help students in need. Public school teachers from every corner of America post classroom project requests on our site, and you can give any amount to the project that most inspires you.
- Citizen’s Committee for Children of New York – They educate and mobilize New Yorkers to make the city a better place for children. Their advocacy combines public policy research and data analysis with citizen action. They cast light on the issues, educate the public, engage allies, and identify and promote practical solutions to ensure that every New York City child is healthy, housed, educated and safe.
- The Door – Each year The Door serves more than 11,000 young people from all over New York City, with a wide range of services including reproductive health care and education, mental health counseling and crisis assistance, legal assistance, GED and ESOL classes, tutoring and homework help, college preparation services, career development, job training and placement, supportive housing, sports and recreational activities, arts, and nutritious meals – all for free, completely confidentially, and under one roof. The Door is unique in its ability to meet the complex needs of New York City’s disconnected youth. No other organization provides the range of services we do all in one place.
by Meghan O’Keefe