In answering this question, you will need to summarize the ideas of Weber (bureaucracy, legitimacy, political actors, etc) and Marx (base/superstructure, false consciousness, ruling ideas, capitalism, etc), and how bureaucratic and economic policies weigh into the current New York City school system. You should also touch on at least one other concept/idea that we have touched but have not discussed to a large degree (affirmative action, gentrification, housing policies, racial discrimination, etc).
The New York City Public School System
The New York City public school system is the largest in the country. In the wake of changing educational systems around the country after Brown v Board of Education, and the urban crises
in the 1960s, the New York City public school system went through numerous changes. From the early 1970s to the early 2000s, the school system was decentralized into educational community districts holding some power over the schools in addition to the Board of Education, the Mayor, the State Legislator, and the Governor. As was the case to desegregate schools in the South, NYC worked out a busing plan whereby black children were picked up and moved to more affluent and better white schools to balance out segregated racial demographics. However, tensions filled when wealthy white immigrants lobbied against these plans, and activists in black neighborhoods in Brooklyn advocated against government control of the schools in their own communities, and were offended by the injustice of failing schools in black and Hispanic neighborhoods.
In 1969, the New York State Legislature split the city into 32 school districts and took away the Mayors control over schools. The local boards, however, had no real power over the selection of teachers and it fragmented the system. Still, some school districts in Manhattan and Queens thrived while others in Brooklyn and the Bronx suffered. District 2 on the East Side of Manhattan, for instance, worked the decentralization plan to success as strong principals were put in place and schools attracted a number of talented teachers. These schools were highperforming. But many middle-class whites, and many blacks, skipped public schools for religious and private schools, or moved to the suburbs as wealthy people fled when New York City became known as the crime capital in the 1980s.
Many of the popular new school options that have emerged in the last two decades have aimed to offer families choices within and outside their neighborhoods, in the form of charter schools and school vouchers. Despite zone schools where students are, for the most part, guaranteed acceptance, over 40 percent of elementary school students are not attending school in the same neighborhood where they live. Interestingly, a recent report by the New School found that about a third of all students who opt out of their local school are black, and that black students opt out of their home school at a higher rate than any other racial /ethnic group. But there are costs for people of color: travel time, money, etc. Moreover, the study found that families who lived in wealthy neighborhoods, and families who lived in the poorest areas, stayed in their zone schools, while those in the middle class and gentrifying neighborhoods moved to outside schools. Poor students and immigrants still learning English were far less likely to attend schools outside of their districts.
In the 2000s, the State Legislature scraped this idea in favor of full mayor control of the schools bureaucracy and local school boards. The city adopted the school-budget system in 2007 as a way to send more money to schools with the neediest students. It replaced a system where funding was tied to teacher salaries, which had advantaged high-performing schools that ended up receiving more money because they attracted more experienced teachers with higher salaries. But there are interesting findings on the money front. As the average national rate stood at $11,762 in 2106, the New York City rate was over double the nationwide spending average for elementary and secondary schools. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, New York City public schools ranked number one in spending per student among urban areas in the U.S., as they spent $24,109 per student in 2016. This high spending rate did not lead to educational success for all students. According to the U.S. Department of Education, over 72 percent of eighth graders
lacked sufficient proficiency in reading, and over 72 percent lacked sufficient proficiency in math, in New York City public schools.
Lastly, the New York City school system is one of the most segregated in the country. Elite public schools such as Stuyvesant and Brooklyn Tech, which require standardized test scores, have few blacks and Hispanics in their populations, and over 60% of their student body are Asians. Stuyvesant, for instance, was demographically 74% Asian, 19% white, 1% black and 3% Hispanic. But many schools throughout the city do not resemble the demographic makeup of the neighborhoods or the city at large
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