Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Nolan and Odonnell Toss the Ball in Klein's Court

Following the machinations of Joel Klein and the NYCDOE last week turned out to be more fun than a dull Final Four end to March Madness.

Klein responded to the UFT/NYCLU law suit on closing zoned schools in Brooklyn's Brownsville -PS 150 and Harlem's PS 241 with a letter to parents saying the schools will remain open, while openly urging them NOT to send their kids to these schools. Call it closing by starving them of kids. (See my posting of Klein's letters- Tweed Undermines Law Suit "Win" on Zoned Schools,
Klein Letter to PS 150 Brownsville Parents)

While it is OK to go to court if you have the resources, if that is all you do, you can only win a moral victory but lose the battle - and the war. But that is the way of the UFT.

We know what the DOE game is: force struggling schools that you are responsible for into closing by shifting the blame on them and open up charter schools in those buildings that will cream off the best kids, while forcing the struggling kids into neighboring schools which will then fall in a domino effect. By the time they all fall and the majority kids are under served, you will be out of office – and responsibility.

Use the Harlem Success charter school political operation (some of them will even admit this is all about politics, not education) to make it look like parents want the zoned schools shut. (Harlem parents say they want their local schools shut down)

NYC parent Steve Koss made a powerful indictment on the NYC Parent blog:
Why is this rush toward charters not seen for what it really is: a broad-scale indictment of Chancellor Klein’s failed tenure? If after seven years at the DOE’s helm, the best he can offer is an escape from the very schools he has failed to improve, isn’t that effectively a statement of surrender on his part? Or is failure the goal, part of a localized “shock doctrine” program that paves the way for a back door public school privatization program that would never have been approved by public referendum?

Read it all: What's Wrong with This Picture?

NY State Assembly members Nolan and Odonnell, two of the most responsive and critical of the DOE members of that often corrupt body, sent Klein a letter in response:
Obviously the support offered by DOE prior to this point has been insufficient for a school with such high percentages of English Language Learners (22.2%), students receiving special education services (22.8%), and students who qualify for Title 1 funding (80.9%).

Although it is not entirely clear from the above mentioned letter, we hope that DOE’s goals are to strengthen P.S. 241, improve its ability to prepare students, and prevent future phasing out. We would like you to specifically describe how DOE will increase its support of P.S. 241, including a targeted strategy to increase achievement, allocation of additional resources, and meaningful consultation with the school community about its needs.

Read it in full: Letter to Klein from O'Donnell and Nolan re PS 241

Angel Gonzalez of ICE and the new coalition of groups being formed, now known as the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) wrote in response:

Definitely an excellent letter to Mr. Klein. However, those insidious machinations of BloomKlein, who undermine our neighborhood schools and who cloak themselves in progressive civil rights rhetoric, need to be countered by increased pressure from below. We will continue to support the efforts of the Harlem & District 3 community as well as those of other school communities of our city. Our organization(GEM) believes that this campaign to defend and improve neighborhood schools must be a citywide effort. The DOE by installing the smaller schools & charters with smaller class sizes & greater resources creates these disparate situations in the neighborhood schools that precipitate tensions and a downward spiral in school performance.

This DOE sabotage of public education continues in all our communities, particularly in our Black and Latino communities. We are committed toward building that necessary groundswell of pressure to force the DOE to heed our demands. In the process, we will be pushing our UFT to take up to demonstrate aggressive leadership on our community/teacher/student/parent demands.

Some of our demands: Stop the School Closings - Fully Support Quality Neighborhood Schools. Smaller Class Size Now(in our UFT contract). Stop High Stakes Testing. Guarantee excessed (1700+) ATR Teachers their seniority right to permanent jobs. No Mayoral Control - Democracy Now.

We also invite the PS 241 and the District 3 community to join us on our May 14 Protest Against NYC School Closings. The planning is in the works and soon you will receive more info. Our next planning meeting for May 14 is April 21, Tues at the CUNY Grad Center(34& 5thAv) - Rm 5409, 5pm.

Keep us posted on your next meetings so that we too can attend and support D3 efforts.

In unity,
Angel Gonzalez,
Grassroots Education Movement (GEM)

Breaking News: New Grassroots Education Coalition to hold Save Our Public Schools rally and march up Broadway to Tweed on May 14 at 4:30 PM. We will pass by UFT headquarters and ask them to come out and play.

Make sure to check the side panel for updates and other important information.

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