Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Separate and Unequal in Good 'Ole New York

Leonie's piece also posted at NYC Public School Parent blog

In these days of phony ed reform, where there is a claim by so-called reformers they are engaging in the "civil rights movement of our time," is it time for another Supreme Court Brown vs, Board of Education case?

Ooops! Not with this Court. Maybe in another generation when we find progress has been marking time. When the results are examined in detail, it will be found that the BloomKlein administration have set back civil rights by 50 years. (Check 2 blog posts by Chaz School Daze on the increase in the need for remedial programs for NYC high school grads under BloomKlein and the deteriorating SAT score situation under Kleinberg.)

And follow the events in the Chicago boycott and civil rights march after 13 years of mayoral control and Phony Ed Reform Politics (which we are now referring to as PERP and "reformers" as PERPS) in the ed notes sidebar where you can also find a link to Fred Klonsky's Prea Prez which is covering the story. His brother Mike also has a story today. Chicago is a great model to see how this all plays out over time and how it will play out in New York in the next half dozen years.

My ICE colleague James Eterno has been writing about Academic Apartheid at Jamaica High School on the ICE blog and in letters to useless NY State Ed Commisioner.

Leonie Haimson chronicled this wonderful story and interchange betweem Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Joel Klein on a tour of a charter school. Poor Marty, lamenting the severe differences in resources allocated to public and charter schools in one of the poorest areas of Brooklyn. You see, Marty has been a total suckup and supporter of BloomKlein, so these are only crocodile tears. (And I remember a different Marty in his Brooklyn College and tenant activist days when he held a meeting in my building lobby to fight our landlord.)

Here's Leonie's superb post:

Jenny Medina of the NY Times captured the following exchange during the usual dog and pony show of yesterday’s media tour of the first day of school:

In a kindergarten classroom — its door designating the students inside as members of the Class of 2025 — Mr. Markowitz cornered Mr. Klein. “Why can’t our public schools have a place like this?” he asked a bit testily. “Do you know the resources it takes for a place like this?

Elizabeth Green of the NY Sun also observed this conversation:

On a visit to the Excellence School, which is housed in a sparkling new 90,000-square-foot school building in Bedford-Stuyvesant, the president of Brooklyn, Marty Markowitz, became visibly agitated.

"Listen to me," he said to the schools chancellor, Joel Klein, as the two toured a classroom, "we have some public schools that are starving for these kinds of resources." Mr. Klein replied that some schools are doing as well as Excellence with more modest budgets. Mr. Markowitz was not convinced; he said that while he supports charter schools, he is "conflicted" about the extra resources they sometimes receive from private donors.
"I really believe the jury is out on this whole thing," Mr. Markowitz said, walking out the door.

Is it all a matter of private donors? According to the school’s website:

Excellence is housed in a 90,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art facility with a 10,000-volume library, a 500-seat auditorium, music and art studios, a gymnasium, a climbing wall, a rooftop turf field, and sufficient classroom space to house Excellence as it grows into a K-8 school.

According to InsideSchools, the building was renovated from a former DOE public school (PS 70):
In the new facility, students will enjoy amenities that rival deeply-endowed private schools. Designed by Yale School of Architecture Dean Robert A.M. Stern, the renovated building includes an AstroTurfed roof garden/play yard with sweeping city and harbor views, secluded and inviting book nooks on every floor, double-sized science labs, a giant gymnasium complete with climbing wall, a spacious school library, and a state-of-the-art auditorium. Sawicki lives around the corner from the new building.
has wonderful before and after photos:

And where did all the money for this incredible facility come from?

See this 2006 article from Fortune magazine, about the Robin Hood foundation and its founder, “hedge fund maestro Paul Tudor Jones” :

“The school is the product of a pooling of dollars by the New York City Board of Education, Robin Hood, and Jones personally, plus contributions from a variety of corporations. The school's physical plant, including a fabulous AstroTurf roof, would be the envy of any $30,000-a-year private school. Inside, groups of energized young teachers and little boys, kindergarten through second grade (and 100% minority), in white shirts and ties, ready themselves for the coming school year. Principal Jabali Sawicki tells me there is a 170-student waiting list. Just a few years ago this building was a neighborhood eyesore, a symbol of all that had gone wrong in Bed-Stuy. Originally constructed in the 1880s as PS 70, and later used as a yeshiva, it became a home to drug dealers and prostitutes after a fire in the 1970s - even a venue for illegal cock fights. Then, in 2004, another organization that Jones supports, Uncommon Schools, committed $30 million ($6 million from Jones personally) to buy and renovate the property. David Saltzman, the executive director of Robin Hood, persuaded Robert A.M. Stern, dean of the Yale School of Architecture, to design the facility, which was completed this spring. Signs throughout the school were done gratis by renowned design firm Pentagram. And Robin Hood sent a check for $150,000 for the school's operating budget. Books were donated by Scholastic and HarperCollins, which have given a collective two million volumes to Robin Hood…”

This 2006 article notes how the Robin Hood Foundation raises hundreds of millions per year; from charity concerts of the Rolling Stones (take: $11 million); benefit dinners hosted by Jon Stewart w/ Beyonce performing, and auctioning off naming rights to charter school buildings going for $1 million:

Most charity dinners in New York are considered a smash if they bring in $1 million. Here success is measured in tens of millions. "If you are on Wall Street, particularly in hedge funds, you have to be here," says one of my tablemates. The final tally? In a single night Robin Hood hauls in $48 million. Some $20 million is earmarked for the new school - which will be matched by the board, $2.25 for each $1. And New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein, who at one point during the gala, at Jones's urging, stands and takes a bow, has said the city, in turn, will match the combined sum (as well as the amount of a tax credit). Overall, the $20 million for the school will grow to $180 million. The cost to put on the dinner? Around $5.6 million.

And the cost to taxpayers: $90 million. In answer to the Fortune reporter’s question: Don't charter schools draw precious resources away from other public schools?

Jones makes no apologies:

"Charter schools are the best thing that ever happened to education in New York City because they provide competition to regular public schools and raise the bar that everyone is trying to attain. They provide thought leadership for other schools, so again there's a multiplicative impact."

This is Klein’s usual response as well. Wonder why so many other schools in Brooklyn and citywide still have substandard conditions. How does that competition thing work again?

Leonie Haimson
Class Size Matters

1 comment:

  1. I agree, I work at Jamaica High School. This summer the school was busy renovating part of the building for "Queens Collegiate." The hallway where the school is located was repainted, one classroom was redesigned into a modern office, two classrooms were outfitted with smartboards and projectors were installed on the ceilings. The rest of the building was left as is. JHS hallways have not been repainted in at least nine years (the length of my stay here,)the carpet in the library still has the same holes, staff from JHS has been moved with no preparation in the classrooms they have been moved to, yet the schools are "equal."


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