President George W. Bush will be visiting an actual Harlem school today in an attempt to raise support and awareness of his No Child Left Behind plan to boost student performance across the nation by 2014. Ironic isn’t it? Harlem Village Academy Charter School on West 144th Street has about 300 students in grades five through eight. Nearly 88 percent of them come from families who live near or below the poverty level. And yet according to school administrators, 70.7 percent of the students passed the city’s reading tests and 73.7 percent passed the math portion, compared to 33 to 48.7 percent of students in other Harlem schools and 55 percent across the metropolitan area.
In anticipation of Dubya’s arrival, garbage cans were removed from the streets and no-parking signs posted. But not everyone believes the President deserves such a warm welcome. Nellie Bailey, founder of the Harlem Tenants Council, seems to feel that Bush has a lot of nerve visiting Harlem; after all, many of its residents are opposed to the war in Iraq.
Edward Simmons, an accountant whose office is around the corner from the school, spoke to the Daily News and explained that he does indeed have concerns about Bush’s foreign policy, but he plans to be courteous anyway. “If you are a fan or not, you’re still an American and you are still patriotic,” he told the paper. “They’re not going to be unkind. He’s the President.” What, all of a sudden Americans feel compelled to be polite?