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.
The report indicates that New York State schools graduate 77 percent of their students, and only 41 percent are prepared for college or a career. For state schools, preparedness is based on a score of 80 on the Regents exams. The city is much worse!
Only 65 percent of New York City’s students graduate and, worse yet, only an abysmal 23 percent are prepared for college or a career. Black and Latino students graduate at a 62 percent rate and only 15 percent are prepared for college or a career.
How about the charter schools? Contrary to popular belief, they do worse than public schools. Only 49 percent of charter school students graduate, and a mere 10 percent are prepared for college or a career. For city schools, preparedness is based on a score of 65 on the Regents exams. In addition, according to Department of Education statistics, 75 percent of New York City graduates that apply for CUNY colleges need remediation in reading and writing, and 40 percent of those drop out of CUNY after two years. These are not Charles Barron’s statistics; this is data collected and reported by the New York State Department of Education. Check it out for yourself!
Come on now, enough is enough! Bloomberg and Walcott have clearly failed our children. Bloomberg boasts about being a great manager, but how can you be a great manager and choose three chancellors that are unqualified to run our education system? Klein, Black and Walcott all needed waivers due to a lack of qualifications. How do you raise standards for our children and dumb down standards for chancellors? We need an open search for a qualified chancellor who does not need a waiver, but more importantly, we need to end mayoral control.
Join Assemblywoman Inez Barron, Councilman Charles Barron, other elected officials, parents, education activists, community leaders and the Freedom Party in our fight to end mayoral control of the Department of Education. Assemblywoman Barron is developing legislation and seeking a Senate sponsor to end mayoral control. Let’s build a mass movement of support to end mayoral control. We can win! Movements and protests do work–just ask Cathie Black!