Sunday, November 14, 2010

Seung Ok: Why Closing Schools Will Always Be Illegal

Mayor Bloomberg and Co. is again attempting to close tons of schools that the community wants open. And to that effect, they will be releasing Impact Statements as required by law. Unless those statements truly list the horrendous effects these closures will have on those students and communities, the city again will be open for a lawsuit.

When a school is closed, the students on track to graduate have the option of transferring out, which they often do. The school being phased out will be left with lower enrollment, and a high proportion of ELL, Special Education, and low achieving students - since other schools tend to reject their applications.

So that school, which needs more support, not less, will have an insufficient budget and number of qualified staff - since special education teachers are the biggest expense in a school (12 to 1 student to teacher ratio). This school will be forced to deny their students legal rights to their services. This is what's happening all across the city. The DOE is forcing schools to break the law.

Because of a smaller staff, courses will have to be dropped. This year in Maxwell HS, chemistry is no longer offered and many teachers are teaching courses out of their license.

Let's not forget the schools that will be installed into the building after the closure. The DOE allows these new schools to reject ELL and Special Education students for the first 3 years. The result on the community is clear. Other schools in the community will have their enrollment of high needs students skyrocket. This is happening to schools all over the city as well.

Those schools targeted for closure must be witness to this travesty and fight it by documenting all the negative effects closures have had on their students. Officially report services not provided to their special education students. Report the number of classes taught out of license. Report the number of ELL and Special Education Students. Document the rise of lower level students concentrating in one school. Document the rise in class size.

And this time - let's approach an organization less complicit than the UFT. In last year's lawsuit settlement, the UFT compromised on keeping schools open by still allowing new schools to co-locate in their buildings (see the case of Jamaica High School). Jamaica High School now has issues of 50 students in some classes and withering space and programs for their students.

Seung Ok

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