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Beware! Cuomo Adds Another Billionaire to “Reimagine” Post-Pandemic Public Education

May 7, 2020

I almost always agree with Diane Ravitch, and I wholeheartedly agree that NY Governor Cuomo’s decision to turn to three technology billionaires for advice on re-imagining schools is misguided. If his intention is to reinvent school he would be better served by appointing professors who are familiar with the power of technology and, consequently, are concerned with some of the ethical issues that it poses in terms of data collection and tracking.

But I fear the position Ms. Ravitch is staking out in this short piece (which presumably is from one of her blog posts) is fiscally naive and failing to see the possibility that MAYBE technology CAN be used as a tool to transform schools AND provide more equity.

The cold fiscal reality of public education is that budgets are going to be severely limited no matter what the federal government decides to do relative to providing relief to states. When state governments were flush with cash and using it to lure more business to the state of to provide tax breaks to it’s wealthiest residents, providing equitable funding was a choice legislators could make. State governments AND local governments are not going to have that choice moving forward. We are undoubtedly entering a zero-sum economic situation and in that environment every government funded function is going to need to tighten its belt and use its imagination to make ends meet.

The other cold reality is that even IF parents and teachers want “smaller class sizes, well-maintained facilities, experienced teachers, a well-stocked library with a librarian, programs in the arts, a nurse and social worker and guidance counselor in every school” that will not happen under the model of school we all grew up with. Ms. Ravitch’s opposition to Cuomo’s reimagining initiative overlooks the fact that Cuomo himself shares one of her perspectives: neither he nor the three billionaires he’s appointed to his task force “…want the distance learning that they are currently experiencing to become permanent.” Rather, they want to draw from their recent experience with distance learning to find a way to combine distance learning with classroom instruction in a fashion that improves public education while reducing the overall costs.

Is it possible to use technology to make public schooling less expensive? It MIGHT be IF we redefine the purpose of the public school and integrate public services into the public school’s mission…. and THAT kind of “reimagining” requires Task Force members from public health, public housing, child welfare, and human services departments… not tech billionaires.

Last but not least, I do not support the notion that a “return to normal” is a desirable goal for schools… especially when “normal” means inequitable opportunities, an outmoded factory model for schooling based on sorting and selecting students based on age cohorts that presumes everyone learns every topic at the same rate, and an assumption that the primary purpose of schooling is to prepare students for work.

Source: Beware! Cuomo Adds Another Billionaire to “Reimagine” Post-Pandemic Public Education

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