Schools and the Middle Class

As noted on The Salon (a closed FB discussion site), the New York Times has an interesting article on the growth of inland cities with better housing values. Oklahoma City is the champion, but on the map is also our fair city, too.

One of the comments on the article reflects

If we could draw this new Middle Class to invest in our #GRMI Public Schools as parents and citizens, we will again have a truly vital city. Otherwise we are just another doughnut on a plate.

In fairness, the educational environment within the city is a mix of essentially four vehicles: the privates, principally religious (tho’ Stepping Stones); the charters; the schools of choice (most of the SE side, and the NE n of Knapp go elsewhere); and the GRPS schools. That doughnut on the plate is one of poverty, not a failure of schools. As Dustin Dwyer’s report on Congress School also revealed, the doughnut is also one of culture, that the middle class did not want to send children to what by all accounts was a school filled with energetic, focused, successful teachers.

The good news is that the leadership of GRPS understands the need for this middle class connection, and in fact has been doing some interesting things to remedy it. The remedy for a school and city with high concentrations of poverty is to find ways to inject social capital, in effect, to dilute the impact of that poverty. This is a bit on the long-term side, certainly with respect to today’s parents.

Near term, a better solution would be for schools throughout the region to think of collaborative strategies to maximize the opportunities for our kids. This also would have the impact of adding to the attractiveness of the region as a whole.

However, the best long-term solution for GRPS will lie not in its internal programs, but in the development of a diverse, broad-based economy. The role of the community college, skill-development programs, and that of regional transit cannot be emphasized enough.

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