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Bloomberg and Walcott failed our children

COUNCILMAN CHARLES BARRON | 5/25/2011, 9:23 a.m.

If I had to give a letter grade to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and newly appointed Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott on educating our children, it would be a resounding "F," because they have failed. This is not just empty rhetoric. Here are the facts: Bloomberg and Walcott have been responsible for educating our children since 2002, which makes it nearly 10 years.

When they started, the New York City Department of Education's budget was over $10 billion and has since risen to $23 billion. For argument's sake, let's give it a low, conservative average of $10 billion dollars a year (of course this number is much higher). That means Bloomberg and Walcott, almost into their 10th year, had over $100 billion to educate 1.1 million educable children, with over 85 percent of those children being Black and Latino. Hold on to that! Now let's examine some of their failing policies:

1) Phasing out low performing schools that they didn't support in the first place, instead of providing them with the necessary resources to succeed: They set them up for failure. When financial institutions like Goldman Sachs and Smith Barney failed, they didn't phase them out; they bailed them out with taxpayer's money, stating that they were just too big to fail. Well, we say bail out our schools because our children are just too important to fail.

2) Co-locating charter schools in public school buildings: Let's not be fooled by the oxymoron "public charters." Charter schools are privately owned and should seek and obtain private funding for space to house their schools. Three and four schools in one building is logistical chaos that forces the faculty to juggle with the use of common space like bathrooms, auditoriums, gymnasiums and lunchrooms, causing some students to cope with 10 a.m. lunches. Absurd!

3) "One size curriculum fits all" is just a foolish policy: Schools should be given the flexibility to adopt a curriculum that meets the unique needs of their student population, with the understanding that some things will be standardized.

4) Constant restructuring of the system leads to a destabilized educational environment: Students, teachers and administrators need stability. Bloomberg and Walcott didn't reform the system; they excessively restructured it, because they didn't know what they were doing. They are not educators.

5) High-stakes standardized testing: This has turned our schools into test taking mills; stressing out principals, teachers, students and families. Test prep periods dominate the school schedules. Many schools, if not most, lack the necessities that contribute to a well-rounded quality education, such as science labs, computer labs, updated libraries, smart boards, music programs, athletic programs, cultural arts programs, just to name a few.

6) Overcrowded classrooms: Everyone knows that smaller class sizes lead to more manageable classrooms and provide a more optimum learning environment for our children. Bloomberg and Walcott had more than enough time and money to reduce class sizes. They didn't!

After nearly 10 years of Bloomberg and Walcott utilizing these policies and practices, the following results clearly speak to their failure. These results are according to the New York State Department of Education's report on student graduation rates and preparedness. The data collected is the latest available information from the 2009 school year.