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Top NYC Elected Officials Criticize School Closings

February 1, 2012
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Public Advocate de Blasio, Comptroller Liu, Borough President Stringer, Former Comptroller Thompson Demand City Tell Truth About “Lost” High-Needs Students

Elected officials ask: What happened to the kids who didn’t make it into the new schools?  Is “warehousing” of high-needs students at other schools dooming them to fail?

(New York, NY – January 31, 2012)  Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Comptroller John Liu, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and former Comptroller Bill Thompson joined together at City Hall to demand the Bloomberg Administration release data showing where “lost” high-needs students at closed schools ended up following a report which indicated that those populations are over-represented in closing schools, and under-represented in the new schools that replace them.

The elected officials echoed the criticisms of parents and advocates who say the new statistics in a report by the Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ) and New York Communities for Change (NYCC) reveal a major flaw in Mayor Bloomberg’s defense of his closing schools policy, and proof that he has failed to improve education quality equitably.

“The only thing more unfair to students than consigning them to a struggling school is consigning them to a struggling school slated for closure.  Students left at these schools are given little to no support by this Mayor.  It’s time for to this Administration to come clean about the real outcomes these students face,” said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.  “As a public school parent, I don’t want to hear more spin or doctored numbers. Parents deserve the real facts on what is happening to the thousands of high-needs students abandoned by this Administration.”

“We need a public school system that raises up all of the City’s students, not one that leaves behind those most in need of help,” Comptroller John C. Liu said.  “Parents, advocates, and electeds have long suspected that the DOE was replacing long-established schools with new schools that have smaller proportions of special needs students and English language learners.  We call on the DOE to provide their analysis of where students displaced by closed schools actually end up.”

“Closing a school should be a last resort, not the easy answer to our City’s educational challenges,” said Manhattan Borough President Stringer.  “Year after year, the administration’s bankrupt school closure policy unsettles students and communities. Now, Mayor Bloomberg plans to close nearly 60 schools—many of which were opened under his administration.  We are here today to send a clear message to Mayor Bloomberg: closing schools isn’t an easy fix, it’s throwing in the towel on the children of New York City.”

“The Department of Education is playing a dangerous shell game with our schools and our children,” said former Comptroller Bill Thompson.  “Closing a school is an unfortunate necessity at times but it should be a last resort and we need to have a sound educational plan for those students. That contrasts with the policy of this Administration to close schools without regard and warehouse our most vulnerable students.”

“For more than a decade the Bloomberg Administration has set our neighborhood schools up to fail and locked parents out of the process,” said NYCC Parent Leader Michelle Chapman. “The people paying the price for these policies are the kids with the highest needs, who are conveniently missing from the DOE’s statistics on small schools.  I want to know what is happening to these kids.”

“It is not okay that Mayor Bloomberg is shifting our highest needs students around like a shell game,” said Zakiyah Ansari, Advocacy Director for the Alliance for Quality Education.  “The Mayor is responsible for the education of all of our children, and must be held accountable for his failed policies because only 13% of African American and Latino students are ready for college after 10 years of his leadership.  We demand to know where the Mayor is warehousing our high-needs students, and, more importantly, what he is going to do to fix the problem.”

High-needs students – self-contained special education, over-age and other historically lower-performing students – make up a smaller percentage of student populations at many of the new schools founded by the administration.  The elected officials and advocates demanded DOE show data regarding the concentration of populations of these students, also including homeless, pregnant and parenting students, and students coming out of juvenile detention, in closing schools.  State Schools Chancellor Meryl Tisch called the shuffling of these students “warehousing” last year in a sharp rebuke of the mayor’s education policies.

Other student populations – particularly low-income students of color – have also not fared well under the Bloomberg Administration.  In fact, parents and students have labeled Mayor Bloomberg as “Mayor 13%” for his administration’s failure to prepare 87 percent of black and Latino students for college.  Just one-in-four students overall are prepared for college under Bloomberg, and just 39 percent of public high school graduates last year reported they would be attending four-year colleges the following fall.

De Blasio, Liu, Stringer and Thompson were joined by parents and community members organized by the Coalition for Educational Justice, New York Communities for Change and Alliance for Quality Education, and members of Advocates for Children, special education advocacy group Arise Coalition, the Urban Youth Collaborative and Class Size Matters.

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