Adopt A School

Eric Adams, New York City’s mayor elect, will inherit an agenda full of problems when he takes office in the New Year. There are many areas of great concern in the City. Among them are security, safety, subways, infrastructure and police policies. This essay will address public education and how focused financial assistance could be of great importance to our students.

You might be surprised to know that New York City has nearly 1,800 schools across its five boroughs. The school system has a budget of $34 billion. About 1.1 million students attend these schools and are instructed by 75,000 teachers. The New York City public school system is gigantic and plays a monstrous role in educating students in the area.

This essay will propose a new way to improve the public school system. In essence, it could bring the financial strength and intellectual acumen of large corporations and affluent citizens to bear. The proposal will encourage corporations and philanthropists to provide direct monetary support and engagement into the affairs of our public schools. This would be a double barrel benefit for the children.

Most experts agree that the New York City public school system is not doing a great job of educating urban children. And, most would concur that notwithstanding the large budget, the instruction by teachers is not optimal. How could a corporation or an affluent person improve the system? You probably would reply that more money would be helpful. This could be accomplished by raising taxes and adding to the billion already flowing into the system.

But suppose more money was provided directly to schools and administered by a panel consisting of the principals, teachers and representatives of a corporate sponsor. The money would be available to meet important non-budgeted operating needs, such as painting, fixing toilets, rodent control and safety along with cultural endeavors like music and dance programs. At the start, money would not be available for teachers’ compensation. This would complicate negotiations with teacher unions in the future.

Here’s a straw man proposal for you to consider. A corporation commits to provide $1 million each year for three years, a pittance for most large corporations in New York City. The number of good things that can be done with $3 million over the three years at a single urban school in one of the worst areas of the City might be nothing short of amazing.

I think more creative ideas need to be explored in connection with corporate desires to make meaningful social impact. Paying taxes, some of which go to education, is impersonal. Giving funds directly to an “adopted school” would be a much more significant event for the school and for the donor.

The evolution of this concept began just after 9/11 when I tried to find ways to help living first responders. Everyone at the time was rushing to give money to the survivors, while I looked at the situation in a different way. It should be noted that adopting a firehouse or police station would also be a wonderful piece of eleemosynary giving.

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