Many years ago a family in our west side neighborhood moved across town to the east side.
Other than being sad to see them go I didn’t spend too much time considering the reason. Families do move, after all.
But then a couple of other parents mentioned that the family moved to the east side so their children could attend the “good” schools.
I had no idea.
“Our schools aren’t good schools?” I asked naively.
“They are,” they quickly assured me, “but some people feel that the east side schools are better.”
There aren’t as many housing projects on the east side and well, the hospital is over there, and it is perceived that more doctors or in other words, more money, reside on that side of the city, I was told.
I had no idea.
I still don’t know if that’s true. I don’t know where the city’s doctors have distributed themselves around Bangor, nor do I care to.
I have never researched where the majority of the city’s Section 8 housing units are located, and certainly for the purpose of school choice I don’t intend to.
And I have no idea whether that was the true reason for the family’s move. That’s not my business.
My business was at my own home and within the walls of my children’s schools.
Where, I will say, they were happy and well educated.
This week, I learned my kids’ elementary and middle schools received a C on the report card issued by Gov. Paul Lepage.
The east side schools got an A and a B.
Were those parents right?
Were we neglectful Bangor parents, denying our children the best education the city had to offer?
Should we have purchased a home over in the “tree streets” neighborhood instead of in the Fairmount Park neighborhood?
And will this “report card” prompt west side parents with small children to post “for sale” signs in front of their homes and head east?
The answer to those three questions is no, no and probably not, though some certainly may, because clearly, even before the report card was issued there was at least some perception that the east side schools outshine those to the west.
I think my kids received a fine education at Fairmount and James F. Doughty schools, but there is quite a difference between the A grade that the Mary Snow school received and the C grade that Fairmount School did.
It would not be unreasonable for parents to ask school administrators for their opinion on the discrepancy.
One would assume the resources are allocated evenly and that the teachers are equivalent.
The answer may be a simple one, but it’s not unworthy of discussion.
I won’t defend the school-grading boondoggle that LePage unleashed this week, but perhaps the idiocy of it was more in the way it was done than in the doing itself.
There are few things higher on a parent’s wish list than the education of their children.
Those who benefited from a great education want the same for their children and those who didn’t surely want nothing more than for their children to have greater opportunities.
In reality, these report cards told us nothing that we didn’t already know or at least suspect.
Schools in wealthier towns performed better than their poorer counterparts.
You don’t have to be terribly well-educated to have already figured that out.
Maybe this report card makes it finally OK to ask the question, “What do they have that we don’t have?”
If we can all stop accusing LePage of political grandstanding and bullying and shaming (I mean we must be used to this by now) and tuck aside our hurt feelings, perhaps we can get busy asking the good governor and the Legislature, “So what are you going to do about it?”
Because we surely can’t all move south to Cape Elizabeth or to the east side of Bangor.
Somebody needs to have an idea.
You can contact Renee at firstname.lastname@example.org.