Path to ending Poverty is Paved with Good Policy
Yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg and some members of his poverty commissions had a press conference to announce some findings from their commission report.
As written in the New York Times: "The commission's members were drawn from the upper echelons of the city's business, nonprofit, academic and social services sectors..... In putting together the recommendations, its leaders traveled to the city's poorest areas and even overseas to determine what strategies might be most successful."
The commissioners went all over the city and overseas to determine, "That the best antipoverty strategy is a job," and for jobs that lift families out of poverty, "the commission also recommended expanding programs aimed at preparing students for college and giving high school students and adults work experience and job training. It also suggested better coordination among agencies to help people get benefits and services, thereby enabling them to seek and hold on to jobs."
The recommendations are sound, if the commission means jobs that pay a living wage. The recommendations are sound if the commission means preparing students for college and starting from the beginning, which means smaller class size in elementary schools in every school in every region and with more quality afterschool care available to more students
The commission's recommendations are sound if better coordination among agencies includes discarding public policy that thwarts families from accessing education. For example, any city agency that prevents people receiving public assistance from accessing education or training is working against the commission's recommendations. In a loud clear voice the mayor needs to direct New York City's welfare agency to make education a priority for people seeking to apply for benefits and those receiving welfare now.
It is clear, to all but those who have to go around the world to find out, that access to education and training is a tried and true route out of poverty. Education is effective economic policy that helps people find and retain jobs.
There are priorities that need to be realigned to effectively end poverty in New York. Money needs to accompany these priorities. Clearly, education is a priority. We will need to review budgets and projections to reflect these needs if the Mayor is sincere.
In addition and starting tomorrow, the Mayor can get out of the way of poor people who want to get into school. Families, city designated heads of households, and children on their family's welfare budgets are being told in many different ways that education is not possible. We can take the recommendations of the commission and make sure that our public agencies are not delivering this message to any poor child, woman or man in New York City. Every day I see students who are run ragged from agency to agency, during class hours, day after day, week after week for bureaucratic nonsense. The students hang on for themselves, for their children and their communities but it is not easy fighting city hall.
I recognize the Mayor's good intentions. However, the path to ending poverty is paved with good policy, not just good intentions. A comprehensive inter-agency commitment to education is a first step. Changing policies to achieve societal goals is the next.