A Critical Look At How Public Policy Impacts Education
Jean Maude Anyon doesn’t mince words. The Professor of Educational and Social Policy in the Doctoral Program in Urban Education, Graduate Center, CUNY gave a presentation at The New Educator Conference critically examining how national public policy polarizes our society and keeps large segments of people in a cycle of poverty and neighborhoods in a condition of economic hardship. Dr. Anyon, author of Radical Possibilities: Public Policy, Urban Education, and a New Social Movement, opened her talk with a sobering question: “Why after all these decades of spending money on inner city schools are things only a little bit better, if at all better?”
Dr. Anyon postulates that the nature of certain policies have had a negative impact on people of color, and those who live in poor neighborhoods. And, this has adversely affected the quality of public education in those urban areas. She states that 41 percent of people who have jobs in America are in fact, part of the working poor. They earn between $6 and $7 dollars an hour and have to support families on this meager income. The majority of the working poor are people of color. She says the No Child Left Behind Law has acted like a job policy which was not the Law’s original intent. What is the public policy behind NCLB says Dr. Anyon? To force students to do well on tests. “We’re going to force everyone to do well on tests. That will get you out of poverty.” Dr. Anyon believes education in itself doesn’t create jobs. In 1996, there were 14 million people looking for only 2 million job openings. And most of those jobs weren’t even full-time.
Current taxation policies hurt poor people and have kept money out of local communities. Tax cuts for the wealthy have increased over the past 40 years. Corporations were taxed at a higher rate in the 1950’s and that money went straight back into the local communities to build schools. Now those corporations pay much less tax, and therefore less money goes back into the local communities. Dr. Anyon stated that there are some good public policies in effect. Examples are anti-discrimination law and equal pay for similar job categories for both sexes. However, Dr. Anyon believes if the equal pay policy were really enforced, it would reduce poverty by 30 percent because so many of the lower salaries go to women. Transportation policy in the nation’s urban centers today determine where poor people live. Many jobs are relocated out of the city to suburban centers. People who subsist on low wages have a difficult time getting to these locations. Dr. Anyon said it’s not easy to get to Englewood, New Jersey from Williamsburg in Brooklyn. Even when urban school reform is successful it cheats the kids notes Dr. Anyon. The students graduate but go on to low paying jobs that pay minimum wages.
How can change be made? Dr. Anyon says social movements have had major impacts in creating new and effective public policy. Project Headstart was developed out of the passion of the civil rights movement in the 1960’s. Parents need to be heard. If a principal or administrator or teacher sees an angry parent at school, stop and listen. It’s an opportunity for them to be heard. Dr. Anyon noted that there are many public interest groups in New York City working on wage issues, housing issues, and how schools can run more effectively. These grass-roots groups can have a large impact in societal change.#