The Mayor of Rochester, Lovely Warren, has called upon the New York State Education Department and the Board of Regents to take over the city’s public schools, oust the elected board, and appoint a different board of its choosing. She claims that Commissioner MaryEllen Elia has a plan, but apparently this is not the case. To say this is incoherent is an understatement. The state has not expressed a desire to take control of Rochester city schools. Mayor Warren apparently has decided to throw them under the bus, abandon local control, and let the state take responsibility.

THIS MATTERS: 56% of the children in Rochester live in poverty, the third highest rate in the nation! Only Gary, Indiana, and Flint, Michigan, have higher  rates of child poverty.

What is Mayor Lovely Warren doing about it?

Here is another point of view, from journalist Rachel Barnhardt. She explains that the negative and misinformed attitudes of public officials guarantee that the children will not get the support they need to succeed in school.

She writes:

We don’t blame the mayor for poverty, so why do we blame the school board?

The Rochester City School District is the worst in the state. It’s also the district with the highest concentration of children who live in poverty. The research is clear: poverty impacts educational outcomes.

Mayor Lovely Warren says poverty is no excuse. Poor children can learn. Black children can learn. We must do something.

She’s right.

We must solve poverty.

No one has been able to figure out how to solve poverty. We’ve been nibbling around the edges with various programs and initiatives, none of which has been transformative.

In the meantime, we must figure out what to do right now. The crisis is urgent. (It’s been urgent since I attended city schools in the early ‘90s.)

Warren does not offer a clear path and stops short of asking for mayoral control. She has been an ardent advocate of charter schools. The mayor also sees community schools, where extra resources are dedicated to addressing issues related to poverty, trauma and education, as a potential solution.

Community schools, however, show mixed results. School 17 has a chronic absenteeism rate of 40 percent and fewer than 10 percent of children are proficient in reading and math. Charter schools siphon money and students away from the district, and don’t always succeed.

Warren also offered another solution, one parents like her have been implementing for decades: abandon the district.

In her State of the City address, Warren said parents who send their kids to city schools are “sacrificing” children. If you can pull your kids from the district, she counseled a friend, you should do so.

That’s what got us into this mess. We have a segregated school system because of the wholesale disinvestment in our schools. We have children denied opportunities because of where they were born.

What would happen, Barnhardt asks, if all parents returned to the public schools instead of abandoning them? What would happen if everyone acknowledged that we have a common fate and we must stand together?

She bravely concludes:

We will never fix the schools long as we refuse to acknowledge that separate is not equal.