Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mid-Summer Course Correction

School Scope column

By Norm Scott

From The Wave, Friday, August 14, 2009:

There have been enough things going on in the education world this summer to fill multiple pages. I’ll spare you the pain. The lazy days of August are not conducive to writers and readers, so I’ll keep this real short and refer those wanting details to my education notes online blog.

The battle for mayoral control, though it looks like it is over, is still not official and the political complexities would take an entire edition of this paper. The law sunset at the end of June and technically we were, and still are until the renewal is finalized, back to the old days. Except that the borough presidents gave BloomKlein even more power than they had before, with our own Helen Marshall shamelessly appointing deputy mayor Dennis Walcott as her representative. For that she should be impeached.

I’ve been working with the Grassroots Education Movement, which came into being this past spring as a group working to fight for public education in the face of the privatization onslaught. Many of our activities have been focused in Harlem with PS 123 as the epicenter. The school shares space with former city councilwoman Eva Moskowitz’ Harlem Success Academy charter school. Moskowitz, who took down a cool $370 grand for managing her four charter schools, is a privateer supreme and just a tad aggressive in demanding lebensraum. She is not exactly a good neighbor when she occupies public schools, often using blitzkrieg tactics to get what she wants.

Soon after school ended, she sent movers into PS 123 teachers’ rooms to remove their stuff. They had been promised their things would not be disturbed. So when summer school teachers saw their materials dumped into hallways, they physically barred the movers and called the DOE and UFT to complain. Eva was forced to stop. A rally was called at the school on July 7 and GEM went up there to support them. ACORN also had a presence, but they are in the uncomfortable position of having a close relationship with the UFT, which itself has two charter schools that invade space in public schools. Parent leaders from other Harlem schools dealing with the charter invasion were also there and a loose coalition of forces started to come together.

A few days later we received a call from one of the PTA presidents in another Harlem school being invaded by Evil, er Eva, that the DOE had ruled in favor of Moskowitz at PS 123 (there is so much money and politics floating around her operation, she almost always gets what she wants). That the DOE would support her was never in doubt, as the Tweedles working for BloomKlein want a perfect storm of “running” a school system of all charter and no public schools. Call it “accountability lite.” So the DOE cooperates in the undermining of public schools and the promotion of charters.

As a result of the call, a bunch of GEMers went back to PS 123 a few days later. Mayoral candidate Tony Avella was there to lend his support and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer took a tour of the building to see the separate and unequal conditions of the two schools in the same building. He emerged, seemingly shocked. But then again he is a politician. They all take Acting 101.

Well, the upshot was a number of rallies at schools in Harlem and at Tweed and the formation of alliances to fight mayoral control, with some politicians coming on board. The most vigorous have been Brooklyn City Councilman Charles Barron and his wife, State Assemblywoman Inez Barron, and Harlem State Senator Bill Perkins, who has been holding weekly meetings in his office with people interested in forming a coalition. Even if mayoral control continues for the next six years, as expected, Bloomberg’s dictatorial arrogance will continue to mess up the schools to such an extent, opposition over is bound to grow. As I wrote on my blog: “the fight to put a stake through the heart of mayoral control starts NOW.”

Opposition is also growing nationally and I went to Los Angeles as part of a NYC contingent to meet with teacher activists from four other cities. I got to hang out with a bunch of young Chicago teachers in a new teacher union group called the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) a group similar to GEM and the Independent Community of Educators, the caucus I work with here in NYC.

We are forming a coalition to oppose the so-called education reformers, who I have termed “deformers.” Too bad President Obama and his Education Secretary Arne Duncan are amongst them. Arne’s stewardship of the Chicago school system, which has been under mayoral control for almost 15 years, is undergoing increasing (negative) scrutiny.

That’s it until school starts. But I keep blogging at

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