This is a guest post by Daniel Bromberg, a senior at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Originally from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, Daniel is passionate about economic justice and equitable education practices. He welcomes any comments or questions and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I grew up in South Brooklyn and attended public school until college. My privileges afforded me the opportunity to attend Cornell University, where I have met many students who attended public high schools in New York City’s wealthier districts. They described their mostly positive experience: Guidance counselors discuss college applications with high school underclassmen; offices are dedicated to college counseling and encouraging students to seek internships, leadership positions in clubs, and experiences on academic teams; teachers offer advanced electives such as constitutional law, anatomy, and students have access to an endless catalogue of Advanced Placement classes that strengthen both a college application and the college applicant.
These experiences are typical of public zoned schools in New York City’s well-off school districts, such as the ones that cover the Upper West Side and Battery Park. But in South Brooklyn, where many schools lack a dedicated college counselor, access to robust extracurricular opportunities, and a diverse course catalog, how can we expect similar levels of college readiness among students?
The reality is that schools in more well-off districts just have more resources. The NYC Department of Education reported that for 2016-2017 School District 21, which covers parts of Bensonhurst, Coney Island, and Brighton Beach, spent on average $370 per student for counseling services. School District 2, which covers parts of the Upper East Side and Midtown West, spent on average $643 per student for counseling services.
Many public high schools in our district lack a full-time college counselor whereas schools with more resources have several counselors devoted solely to college readiness. Often, one counselor is expected to be responsible for 300 students. The way our high school system works means that counselors simply do not have the time or energy to invest themselves in every single student as much as is necessary for student success. According to the NYC 2017-2018 School Quality Guide, schools like Abraham Lincoln High School, New Utrecht High School, Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School and Brooklyn Studio High School all have 6-year college readiness rates at least 15% less than the city average, some with rates 30% less than the city average.
The discussion of education today lacks urgency. The inequity in New York City’s education system is deep, systemic, and self-reinforcing. It’s not just that schools in places like South Brooklyn have less funding than those in Manhattan — it’s about how that imbalance in resources shapes the futures that children in our community. As more jobs begin to require college degrees, more employers will overlook South Brooklyn’s students. And when employers overlook our determined and intelligent young adults, they overlook our community.
All agree more can be done in our schools and efforts are made each year to push more into our schools. But every year the discussion is about what the school district can afford, instead of what the school district can invest. Investments in more counselors, more resources and more attention to students now are crucial, not just to each individual student we reach, but to South Brooklyn as a whole.