Manuel Pastor on Geoff Canada: It’s about regional equity, not charter schools

“They don’t call it a zone for nothing,” Manuel Pastor explains in the current issue of American Prospect. Pastor, who kicked off The Springfield Institute’s first discussion series back in April, is talking about Geoff Canada’s extremely popular Harlem Children’s Zone. And Geoff Canada is coming to Springfield on November 4th (courtesy of The Springfield Public Forum).

Dr. Pastor kicking off Springfield Institute discussion series in April.

Dr. Pastor kicking off Springfield Institute discussion series in April.

Pastor warns against reducing Geoff Canada’s model to a prescription for charter schools (where pesky unions can’t muck things up). Instead, the critical element is regional and holistic thinking. Wrap-around cradle-to-grave interventions, housing, transportation, workforce development, and the green economy are all invoked.¬†That’s what works, but it’s also where the real money is. The $10 million that is being issued nationally to replicate HCZ should be compared, Pastor suggests, to nearly a billion federal dollars that are being distributed through the Community Development Block Grant, the Choice Neighborhood Program, and the Sustainable Communities Initiative.

But the most resonant point is at the end: “…metropolitan areas characterized by high levels of segregation and inequity do poorly in part because they fail to keep up their investments in human capital and in part because they are wracked by social conflict and jurisdictional fragmentation.” Basically, if you want targeted initiatives to work, better make regional development and equity an explicit part of the agenda too. Somewhere in there, I believe, is both the explanation for why so many years of hard work and investment have not produced real results in Springfield, Holyoke, and the region; and a prescription for historically significant transformation.

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3 Responses

  1. […] education in Springfield and Holyoke is already a priority. But we’re not seeing results. How to transform this system is a formidable question in its own […]

  2. Hi Aaron,

    I was curious as to hear more about your opinion of charter schools in relation to the possibility of Springfield becoming a Promise Neighborhood. Reducing the HCZ to a charter school model is not a real solution for change. However the non-union characteristics of a charter school seem like a good fit. Students and teachers really need a longer day to enrich the learning environment and begin to level the playing field. It seems like the current public school model wouldn’t allow for the needed flexibility and demands of a zone. What do you think? How do you envision schools in a Promise Neighborhood? Or simply, what changes do you think are really necessary to make schools that work to meet the needs of the students? I understand that school is only one piece of the solution, but I am curious. I think that there is something lost when we have to have charter schools though I am not against charter schools.

    Thanks for meeting with our class yesterday.

    Kristen

  3. Thanks for the great comments and questions. First let me say that while I certainly have opinions on issues, my highest priority is to make sure the opinions of traditionally underrepresented people (for example, young people like you!), see the light of day. That said, here are some thoughts:
    – Unions shouldn’t be scapegoated as the problem here. I wish it were that simple! In fact, to the extent that they make being a teacher easier and more attractive, they’re pretty critical.
    – Residents need to feel like they deserve better than the public schools they have to work with, and they need to have support to be able to get their perspectives out there, engage the system, and change it–not on the margins, but really transform it.
    – The political winds favor charter school rights now, and if for no other reason, maybe we need to ride that current in order to make changes. But lets try not to doom the future of public education in the process. In fact, I’ve heard some principals in Springfield talk about how charter schools can be laboratories for stuff that can happen in public schools (they see the inevitability too).

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