It has gone from bad to worse for the Bloomberg administration and the Department of Education. They’ve been broadsided with new reports showing their neglect and mismanagement of schools. The timing could not have been worse for an administration still trying to recover from its epic failures during the December snow storm, the millions wasted in the CityTime scandal and the controversial schools chancellor selection process.
Parents and teachers who are in their schools every day have long understood the importance of supporting school communities. Done properly, they know that every school can succeed and every child can receive a quality education. For years they have criticized the DOE for flooding certain schools with large numbers of our most vulnerable students and then not supporting them–setting them up for failure. These claims were routinely dismissed.
Now comes word from the Independent Budget Office, and through leaked internal DOE documents, that administration officials knew exactly what they were doing and chose to look the other way.
Since 2005, according to the IBO report, the DOE has been placing large percentages of challenging students–including children with special needs, English language learners and those facing the challenges of homelessness–in particular schools.
It wasn’t just parents and teachers sounding the alarm. Even inside the Tweed Courthouse concerned DOE officials had commissioned an internal report to show them how to predict which schools were in danger of failing. That same DOE report, which was produced five years ago, talked about the impact of steering large concentrations of high-needs children into a single school.
Knowing all this, how did this administration sit back and allow this recipe for failure to be created? The schools where they allowed this to happen struggled, just as their reports told them they would.
The DOE should have done everything in its power to give every child the most possible opportunities to be successful. Instead, the DOE did nothing to help alleviate the harm that they knew was happening. That’s educational neglect.
The DOE is now moving to close 25 schools. The Panel for Education Policy, the new Board of Education controlled by mayoral appointees, voted to close the first group of schools on Tuesday, after seven hours of passionate testimony from parents and educators who feel abandoned.
That’s not leadership or putting children first. That’s a shameful abdication of their responsibilities to our children and our communities.
The Mayor has also made it clear that his administration will be abdicating its fiscal responsibilities as well, at least when it comes to average New Yorkers.
It doesn’t take a financial guru to understand that Wall Street’s latest boom isn’t being felt in most of the communities in New York City. The wealthiest 1 percent of earners here in New York City are taking home 45 percent of the city’s income, while the average hardworking New Yorker continues to fall further and further behind. That income disparity between working New Yorkers and the city’s highest earners is the worst in the nation.
With difficult budget decisions ahead, one would hope the Mayor would put his substantial fiscal know-how to the test and advocate for working families and our schools. So far he hasn’t.
In fact, the Mayor used his State of the City address and subsequent media interviews to threaten 21,000 teacher layoffs. Considering that the DOE has allowed class sizes to steadily increase in every grade for three straight years, despite receiving nearly a billion dollars in state class size reduction funds, it was a curious strategy, and one that he was forced to back off from a few days later.
The Mayor is also working hard to pit parents against parents, communities against communities and teachers against teachers by actively disparaging experienced teachers. He knows full well that we have already lost 5,000 teachers in the last two years, and the loss of any additional teachers through layoffs or attrition will only harm children. He should be fighting to stop this from happening; instead it seems he is fighting to make it happen.
What’s more, he continues to battle against sensible and sound fiscal plans, including the millionaire’s tax, which would bring in billions of dollars just by requiring that our highest earners pay their fair share. It has already been proven to work, and yet the Mayor is actively working to protect the millionaires of this city instead of the children.
The shameful political games being played by this administration need to stop. Our children and schools have been shortchanged too long. Working families have suffered enough. It’s time for the Mayor and DOE to take responsibility for educating ALL of our children and support ALL of our communities.