Uncommon Sense

politics and society are, unfortunately, much the same thing

The Slow and Glorious Death of America’s Worst School System

June 10, 2014 by Jim Epstein

The public school system is at “Def-Con 1,” warned the mayor of Camden, New Jersey, the poorest and most dangerous city in America. In an open letter to the governor, the mayor described “horrendous conditions” in the schools, warning that the situation had “reached a critical stage.” Camden’s school system “relegates too many of our young men to criminal careers” and “lifetimes of dependency,” he wrote.

That letter was dated 1998, but it could have been written yesterday. Then-Mayor Milton Milan (his heart wasn’t entirely in the right place, as he was later jailed for corruption) complained of aging school buildings and collapsing ceilings; Camden Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard recently found that school buildings “are often in disrepair and no longer adequate as educational sites.”

Twenty-three years ago, crusading ex-Marine Gordon Sunkett stood on a six-foot platform for more than 60 consecutive hours to draw attention to out-of-control violence in Camden’s schools; on a recent listening tour, Superintendent Rouhanifard found that “half of elementary school students say they don’t feel safe going to the bathroom or walking in the hallways.” In 1998, researchers at Rowan University caused waves by reporting that 50% of Camden students dropped out of high school; last year, Camden’s dropout rate was 49%.

“Nothing ever changes in Camden,” says Derrell Bradford, the executive director of NYCAN, an education reform nonprofit. “It’s a great human tragedy.”

Camden’s school system can’t be saved—but it can disappear. Every year, more students flee the city’s dangerous and dilapidated schools for privately-run public charters that do a much better job at keeping them safe and preparing them for the workforce. In New Jersey, charters siphon money away from the traditional school system, which is one of their best features.

budget, bureaucracy, children, corruption, education, government, nanny state, public policy, reform

read full article: The Slow and Glorious Death of America’s Worst School System

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Filed under: budget, bureaucracy, children, corruption, education, government, nanny state, public policy, reform

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