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The School Closing Marathon
January 27th, 2010

The hearing on whether to http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/28/nyregion/28closings.htclose 19 schools last night certainly testified to rising anger, in some quarters at least, against Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his education policies. The eight hour meeting also provided stark evidence of how absolute the mayor’s power is when it comes to education and how little the legislature really changed when they tweaked mayoral control last summer.

In previous years, all it took to close schools was the Department of Education’s say so. The legislature changed that — but then gave the power of “review” to the Panel on Educational Policy, which the mayor totally controls.

That gave last night’s hearing a touch of the surreal. Every one knew from the get go that the panel would vote for closing the schools — and it did with the eight mayoral appointees and the representative from Staten Island voting yes; the four other borough representatives voting no. Several elected officials in the audience tried to get the vote postponed, to no avail.

Irate parents, students, teachers and activists — some bearing placards, many of them black and Latino — jammed Brooklyn Tech’s auditorium. Speaker after speaker defended one school or another, saying the closed school had particularly challenging student populations. Individual students spoke of what the schools had done for them.

Holding her baby daughter, Rebecca Freeman, a senior at Paul Robeson declared, “I am not a failure and I will never be a failure. And neither will my daughter.”

People came to the microphones to accuse the administration of closing conventional public schools to make way for privately run charter schools and said the administration had done nothing to help the schools cope with large umbers of special ed students, kids who do not speak English and those who came into the schools with low achievement.

“We have seen the Department of Education’s complete mismanagement and disruption of our student’s lives,” said Karen Alford, a United Federation of Teacher vice president.

Sitting far back on the stage the panel seemed to listen, remaining largely impassive, with the mayor’s eight appointees — – all of whom he could immediately remove if they expressed any independence whatsoever — rarely saying anything. Instead, education department counsel Michael Best called out names, thanked people for their testimony and told them their time was up. People who continued to speak ran the risk of having the microphone shut off.

As covered in GothamSchools, none of the mayor’s appointees told the crowd why they supported the closings although one, Linda Lausell Bryant, reportedly said she was not a rubber stamp.

Expressing frustration with the process, Jane Hirschmann of Time Out for Testing and Lisa Donlan of Community Education Council 1 presented a sock puppet show in which Hirschman played the education puppet. When the parent puppet (Donlan) asked Hirschman (the education puppet), “Did you actually read all the written testimony? the education puppet answered, Read? Im a puppet, I dont read.”
The microphone got shut off before the duo could deliver their final line: “If Klein and Bloomberg have not fixed the schools in eight years, it’s time to shut Klein and Bloomberg down.”

At least one of the panel members, Patrick Sullivan who was appointed by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, also expressed frustration with the mayor’s appointees. After the microphone was turned off during testimony by New York NAACP president Annie Martin, Sullivan assailed panel president David Chang for having Best run the proceeding instead of doing it himself.

“If someone is going to turn off the microphone on the NAACP, let it be the mayor’s appointee,” Sullivan said.

By on January 27, 2010, 11:53 am
In category: Education | 5 Comments »

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5 Responses to “The School Closing Marathon”

  1. deterritorialization Says:
    January 27th, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    19 schools were slated to be closed last night. The scumbags on the PEP passed the motions. As many speakers pointed out last night, the PEP has no authority to do this. We the workers, students, and teachers have the power to stop this. Last night not one person spoke in favor of a single school closing — not even from the panel which approved 19 of them. There is a unanimous consensus that these cuts are racist, classist attacks and must be stopped.
    Now is the crucial moment. The sham PEP has been fully exposed. We must take matters into our own hands. We must walkout, occupy and strike to stop ALL school closings, layoffs, fare hikes, Metrocard cuts — all attacks on students, workers and the oppressed.
    The UFT leaders must be exposed for their treachery. After weeks of demonstrations called by grassroots coalitions fed up with the UFT rubber stamping Bloombergs policies, the UFT leaders were forced to mobil
    ize some rather small portions of their membership for the demonstration and meeting last night. This is not enough. The UFT, together with students and parents, has the power to shut the entire city down. Instead, union leaders share stages with politicians who pay lip service but scramble to keep us from mobilizing. The union leaders try to give us chances to symbolically display our anger without making a real fight or winning real change.

    We cannot accept this intolerable situation. Thousands of teachers are facing layoffs, thousands of Black and Latino students are being displaced from their schools, and 500,000 students with free/reduced-cost
    Metrocards will lose these by September. Just like the UFT refuses to mobilize its teachers for a strike or actions to stop the closings, TWU100 refuses to mobilize transit workers against the MTAs attacks o
    n working class students.
    Those of us who see and expose these betrayals must come together in common action. We must fight together so strongly that the union leaders have no choice but to support us or be sidelined entirely.

    Now that the PEP has voted, we must immediately begin preparations for escalated and continued struggle, while realizing that many of our so-called “leaders” will be ready to drop the struggle and accept the P
    EPs many-year plan to attack, underfund and close public schools.

    Sending a message is not enough. We must make the change we seek.

    NOW we must immediately fight together on these grounds:

    SUPPORT MARCH 4TH ACTIONS TO DEFEND EDUCATION!

    OCCUPY CLOSING SCHOOLS AND KEEP THEM OPEN!
    USE AN OCCUPIED SCHOOL TO BUILD A GENERAL ASSEMBLY FOR A REAL STRUGGLE AGAINST ALL ATTACKS ON EDUCATION!

    STUDENTS AND WORKERS, BUILD A GENERAL STRIKE!

    UFT MEMBERS, STAND TOGETHER AND FIGHT DESPITE THE TREACHERY OF THE BUREAUCRATS!

    BEWARE OF ALL THOSE, EVEN IN OUR OWN RANKS, WHO STAND IN THE WAY OF THE MILITANT BATTLES NEEDED TO DEFEND OURSELVES FROM THE CAPITALIST ATTACKS!

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