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Public Schools: “Victims of their own success”

This post is published as a Web extension of our August 2012 Education Issue – our annual blow-out of all things educational. To read it in full, visit our e-store to purchase a copy or subscription.

By Kaneisha Montague, Editorial Intern


Public schools must have at least 60 percent of its students below the poverty rate to qualify for federal funding. Those that fall short are subject to the dismissal of their teachers. New York public schools P.S 9 Teunis G. Bergen and P.S 11 Purvis J. Behan have experienced the results of such losses.

With a minuscule drop from 60 percent to 59.1, P.S. 9 lost thousands of dollars in Title 1 funding. These two schools and those similar are too rich to qualify for federal aid and as a result, many teachers are let go. While the environment surrounding the school successfully advances, the school bares the lash of the improvement.

All schools strive to improve academics and the environment of the school, but with that, it attracts a higher class family structure to the surrounding neighborhoods. With the neighborhood growing above the poverty level, the government withdrawals it’s funding.

Seeing that the number of teachers decreases when above the poverty level and those new middle class families have enrolled their children, the number of students increases. Needless to say the teacher student ratio bares a much larger gap, leaving classrooms crowded and teachers overwhelmed. About 87 schools in New York are experiencing overcrowding. P.S.9’s student population grew from 484 students in the year 2010 to a projection of 650 in 2012-13.

Although parents are trying to raise money to reinstate teachers at their feeding school, these families “do not have the means to make up the difference; the median family income is roughly 50,000. It appears like our families are doing better financially, but they’re not, they all feel the crunch.” says Ms. D’Avilar, principal of P.S. 9.

Parents are barely raising enough to reinstate one laid off teacher. Ms. D’Avilar adds that she even “heard children going into their piggy banks because they want to help save [their] teachers.” P.S 165’s poverty rate dropped to 57 percent simply due to the shifting of 16 students, consequently, P.S. 165 will lose the Title 1 federal funding amounted to about $281,000. Public schools have become the victims of their own success.

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