These activists know that simply registering your child and walking away is not an option if you want enhanced art, music and science programs, to name just a few. They volunteer at lunch and at recess and run auctions, bake sales and endless fundraisers to create better programs for all children. And they are pretty sick of all the finger-pointing about whose fault it is when school budgets are cut.
Many of the most ardent public education supporters began battling for better schools in pre-kindergarten, but now they've discovered there are no certain spots in such programs -- and that even kindergarten in their zoned neighborhood schools cannot be taken for granted due to overcrowding.
One of the most painful moments came last week, when Chancellor Joel Klein announced he'd have to make cuts as high as 6 percent at some of the most attractive and sought-after places like the Salk School of Science, where some 45 percent of 8th graders receive offers to attend the specialized high schools. Salk faces a cut of $133,762, or 5.25 percent. Klein told reporters that 74 schools would face cuts of more than 5 percent.
Parents aren't buying it, as the New York Times pointed out last week, nor should they. (The City Council, which must approve the mayor's budget, isn't buying it either.) The average New York City public parent activist is too busy looking for decent public schools, fighting to maintain the ones their kids already attend and raising ever more money (like I said, it's a lot of cupcakes and rummage sales) to get caught in the middle of despicable politics as usual.
That amounts to angst on top of anxiety. Say you are an activist 5th-grade parent who has long hoped your child would get into an excellent middle school like Salk. Number one, you haven't heard yet -- for some unexplained reason, the middle school process has been delayed this year.
Read all of Liz Willen's Middle School Muddle