Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

NYC Poverty Rate Rises By 100,000; Bloomberg Contributes To This Rise With Ed Reform Policies

Two stories in today's NY Times caught my eye. Here's the first:

The number of New Yorkers classified as poor in 2010 increased by nearly 100,000 from the year before, raising the poverty rate by 1.3 percentage points to 21 percent — the highest level and the largest year-to-year increase since the city adopted a more detailed definition of poverty in 2005.

The recession and the sluggish recovery have taken a particularly harsh toll on children, with more than one in four under 18 living in poverty, according to an analysis by the city’s Center for Economic Opportunity that will be released on Tuesday.

Families with children were also vulnerable. They had a poverty rate of 23 percent, and a significant number of households were struggling to remain above the poverty line. Even families with two full-time earners were more likely to be considered poor in 2010; their ranks swelled by 1.3 percentage points to 5 percent compared with 2009.

By the city measure, more than 1.7 million residents were poor in 2010, the last year for which an analysis could be calculated.


The city classified 12.4 percent of New York residents as near poor — living at 100 percent through 124 percent of the poverty level — compared with 5.4 percent by the federal measure.

From 2009 to 2010, according to the federal standard, the city’s poverty rate increased 1.5 percentage points to 18.8 percent.

The poverty rate had declined for years from a high of 20.5 percent in 2005 but began climbing in 2008, when the recession hit. Hispanic and black New Yorkers, including children, were hit especially hard.

“Given the priority that policy makers have given to child poverty,” the analysis by Mark Levitan, the center’s director of poverty research, said, “the rise in the poverty rate for children, from 22.9 percent in 2008 to 25.8 percent in 2010, is particularly notable.”

And now the connecting story:

New York City is filled with schools marked twice over for death.

The Bloomberg administration long ago determined that its education revolution would occur at the edge of an ax. So far, officials have closed 140 schools, which they routinely describe as failing, and replaced them with smaller schools and charters, which they routinely describe as making “historic gains.”

Perhaps this is so. But for tens of thousands of children who live in the purgatory of schools marked for closing, boasts of an education revolution bring little comfort.

Last week, I talked with Juan Pagan, the parent association president at Legacy High School for Integrated Studies in Manhattan. This year, the city’s Panel for Education Policy, a public board as obedient to mayoral desire as any in the city, voted to begin the shutdown of Legacy, a process that takes years.

Mr. Pagan described a school slowly bleeding out. Elective classes and after-school programs falling away. Favorite teachers seeking new jobs. But for his daughter, a 19-year-old senior in special education without enough credits to graduate, the most grievous recent loss was the social worker.

“They say the school is shrinking, and the social worker was excessed,” he said. “The teachers are great, but, I mean, oh my God, that social worker was keeping her in school.”

He talked faster. “I’m sorry; let me take a deep breath,” he said. “I want to know how you can shrink a school while so many kids are still inside of it.”


The 23 schools marked for closing began this year weighed down with higher percentages of special education and over-age students than other public schools in New York. In there are strong students, but many more arrive at the front door with pitifully low math and reading scores.

Many of these schools will, in their last years of existence, become gathering places for the forgotten. Homeless children, teenage parents, those struggling with English: it’s as if the department channeled the most troubled students to the most troubled schools.

The administration decided to close Paul Robeson High School in Crown Heights, Brooklyn; fully 13 percent of its students live in homeless shelters or in homes with more than one family.

To live this reality is to feel the weight of impossibility weighing down. Joanne Frank, once the principal at Norman Thomas High School in Manhattan, retired 10 years ago. But she recalled when a previous administration closed two high schools. Within weeks, waves of students from those failed schools began washing up at her door. “The administration is depressed and angry, the teachers are depressed and angry, and the kids feel they failed,” she said.

Back at Legacy High School, Keyla Marte of East Harlem has battled that fate. She’s fought to save her school. She plans to go to college and perhaps become a teacher.

I listened to her bubble over with ideas. But in the end, even her hope sounds strained.

“Our school,” she said, “is slowly fading away. You can say that, and it’s very sad.”

According to the Center for Economic Opportunity report, one in four children is living in poverty.

Bloomberg's strategy to deal with this is to close many of the schools they attend, steal the money that should be going to those school to give those children decent educations, hand that money to education consultants, Verizon techs and SIG hucksters, and reopen them as small schools or charters with a whole other population of students.

No wonder the poverty rate is increasing.

And even if these children graduate high school, go on to college and try and find a job afterward, they will struggle like no other generation in recent memory.

There are no jobs for most of these kids outside of the service industry or retail.

That's the reality.

Bloomberg has contributed to that reality too by backing up his cronies on Wall Street and the increased financialization of the economy wherein only people who move paper around on trading desks make any money anymore.

He has also opposed the living wage bill that would require companies doing business with the city and receiving large subsidies in the process to pay $10 an hour to employees with benefits or $11.50 an hour without benefits.

But Bloomberg says businesses cannot afford to do this and so he opposes the law.

He prefers the feudalism economy we have now where people are chained down for life in debt as they try and educate themselves to compete in an increasingly cutthroat globalized economy that sees Bloomberg's Wall Street cronies benefit every time they outsource jobs to Sri Lanka and put more Americans under the poverty line with the leftover crap wages here.

Make no mistake, Bloomberg's free market policies help contribute to this sorry state of economic affairs and his education policies - the school closures, the stealing money from schools and handing it to consultants and technology companies, the emphasis on charter schools, the busting of the teachers union, the demonization of labor - are all part of the same story.

We live in a neo-feudal state and Bloomberg is the Lord, Goldman Sachs are the Knight of the Round, and most of the rest of us are the vassals left to compete for the scraps from the Bloomberg banquet table.

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