Friday, March 6, 2009

Nationalize the Schools

by Norman Scott

March 6, 2009
The Wave, School Scope column

I’m dizzy from racing from meeting to meeting about the major push-button issues affecting education: closing schools and the potential creation of thousands of teachers (ATRs) and students floating around the city like nomads looking for schools to land at. And much of it due to the impact of high stakes testing. Charter schools are the wedge to undermine over 200 years of public education in this country.

Public education is undergoing the same process as occurred in the last 25 years as privatization and non-regulation became king. But hey, this is a free and open market system. Capitalism, you know. How well is that working out in the economy? With all the talk of nationalizing the banks, we need to take a look at re-nationalizing the public schools – taking back public control of the schools, so many of which have been handed over to private interests running charter schools while we still pay the bill out of our taxes.

The obscenity of all this reached a height this week with the Daily News’ Juan Gonzalez report that Eva Moskowitz, who runs four Harlem Success charter schools and uses a massive publicity operation to steal public school buildings, earned $371,000. That's all for about 1000 kids from grades K-3 who attend Harlem Success. Let's see now, at this rate, if Moskowitz was the chancellor, she would earn around $1,200,000,000 based on the per child rate. Hey Joel, you're underpaid.

My buddy and fellow ICE activist Angel Gonzalez said, “What a poverty pimp! She is siphoning off monies from public school students services and from teachers at these charter schools who probably are not guaranteed pensions and other teacher/worker fringe benefits. She should be indicted! Another reason why we need to oppose Charter Schools.”

Patrick Sullivan, the Manhattan rep on the Panel for Education Policy and the lone voice of dissent (shame on the Queens rep) wrote, “PS 241 in Manhattan's District 3 will be replaced with a branch of the Eva Moskowitz charter chain, Harlem Success Academy. What's news here is not just a new charter school opening but that the Bloomberg administration will convert a public school to a charter school without a majority vote of the parent body as required by state law. The elimination of the school will also require the neighborhood to be rezoned to reassign children to other schools left by the gap created by 241's closure. The administration has signaled that it will not seek the approval for rezoning from District 3's Community Education Council, also required by state education law.”

Talk about theft. The Bloomberg/Klein game plan is clear. Starve the public schools to such an extent they must be branded failures. They even go so far as to put in a principal they know will prove incompetent – someone who will disparage children, teachers and parents, alienating all so even they will want the school closed. A prime example was the notorious Jolanta Rohloff who was installed at Lafayette HS to drive the final nail in the coffin. Her fellow trainees at the Principal Academy sniggered when she got a job over so many others, sine they looked at her as a joke. She is now running the Staten Island rubber room – at $150,000 a year. I have many other examples. (See my blog about horror story Suzanne Joseph of MS 113K). Insidious indeed.

Teachers in elementary schools tell me of the key elements in the downhill death spiral of their schools began when they were forced by the DOE to go to a K-8 model, where very big kids are mixed with very small kids and the school quickly becomes unmanageable. The upper grades have so many less resources than they would in a focused middle school. Not that these weren’t failing either. Let’s stop and remember that the NYC schools have been under BloomKlein control for six years and every school they close is an admission of failure. As is their farming out management to private interests – “we can’t do it right, so you try and by the time you fail too, we’ll be long gone.” Accountability, anyone?

The same thing is occurring at PS 150 in Ocean-Hill Brownsville, where the school is being phased out and replaced by two charter schools. Let’s stop for a minute and remember that this school was under the control of Kathy Kashin when she was District 23 leader, and then Region 5 head and she put in a buddy as principal, who still reigns in total incompetency mode. Kashin was rewarded when she was got a top job in one of the 200 reorganizations Klein has managed to mismanage.

Parents at PS 150 were lied to when originally told their kids were guaranteed slots in the new charter schools (a source says one of the leaders is clearly a know-nothing a-hole). Now parents are told there is a “process.” We call that creaming where the top kids are selected – charter schools often require parents to volunteer, leaving the public schools with the kids who need the most resources. Those who do not get accepted will have to send their kids to 5 local feeder schools. Now those schools are getting into the act in protest and a rally at PS 150 will be held. A rally was also held at Brandeis HS after its closing was announced. Being on the upper west side, that is a major land grab by private interests. It was great to see people from other closing schools come out in support.

And don’t forget our own local PS 225 in Rockaway, of which I have written about in previous columns. The UFT has basically told people the closing of their school is a fait accompli. The union supports individual rallies at the schools – let them get it off their chests – but will do nothing to organize all of them to try to put a stop to the bleeding.

I’ve made no secret that I have no faith in the political process or in politicians, who can be bought and sold for a dime. Witness the involvement of NY State Senate leader Malcolm Smith in our local Peninsula Prep charter school. And remember Floyd Flake’s interest in making his own grab for the privatization of public schools? And with the UFT playing in the same game, the only solution is for rank and file teachers and parents to put together a movement for progressive change.

The Independent Community of Educators (ICE) caucus in the UFT, of which I am a member, has been working with teachers at various closing schools with the goal of bringing people from all these schools together to make a stand. We have also been working with other groups within and outside the UFT. NYCORE (NY Collective of Radical Educators) and ICE have joined with other groups to focus on the closing school, ATR, high stakes testing and charter school issues. We are holding a conference on March 28 at John Jay College.

Our leaflet says, “We are a group of new and veteran educators looking to hold an issues-oriented meeting. We will have speakers who provide an analysis that connects these crucial issues and invite discussion around how to create resistance and attempt to provide an analysis of the interests that benefit from standardized testing and school-reorganization juggernaut. The purpose of the meeting is more than reports and analysis. We plan an extended discussion about actions and strategies to reverse things. We hope, for the first time, to bring together people from affected schools in distant neighborhoods. Let's end the isolation of good school/bad school. Let's map out strategies for citywide action to take back public education.” (Check my blog for updates.)

Further reading: Charter schools and the attack on public education

Norm writes more of this drivel daily at

1 comment:

The Perimeter Primate said...

Wish I could be there for the John Jay conference. Taking a steady, organized approach sounds like a very wise way to go.

I occasionally visit my mother who lives 30 min. west of Manhattan. I expect that you and I will definitely connect in person within the next year.