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November 2, 2011
Protesting parent: Stark resource gap divides my kids' schools
For Natoshia Wheeler, the argument that schools do better when they have more resources is proven every night in her living room. Wheeler has three children in Brownsville schools. Her youngest and oldest attend two low-performing schools that share a building, the General D. Chappie James Elementary and Middle School of Science, where she is PTA president. Her middle daughter attends I.S. 392, a selective middle school located just six blocks away. Recently Wheeler's middle daughter brought home a new laptop that her school provided, equipped with a tools for free online tutoring. The tools allowed her to complete complicated projects, such as building a model island with different biomes on it, that enthralled her siblings. But at the Chappie schools, Wheeler said after-school programs have been cut, the art teacher was let go, and students can't always bring books home to use while completing homework. What's more, she said, the three-year-old schools are only just finding their feet after replacing P.S./I.S. 183, a perennially failing that closed in 2008. Last year, on their first progress reports, both schools got D's. So when the elementary school got an F and the middle school got a D on their most recent progress reports, Wheeler said she was not shocked — but she was surprised that the city said it was considering shuttering the school. The city has not yet announced any closures but has named 20 elementary and middle schools that are eligible according to the Department of Education's guidelines.
October 25, 2011
Advocates fuel school-by-school preemptive effort on closures
City Councilwoman Margaret Chin at a preemptive rally against the closure of P.S. 137. Education activists continued their preemptive assault against the city's school closure policy today. No closure announcements have been made yet this year, but the Department of Education has already alerted 20 elementary and middle schools that they could be closed due to low performance. And some of those schools have begun pushing back. The tour began last week in Bedford-Stuyvesant at P.S. 256 and resumed today on the Lower East Side at P.S. 137, a declining school that received an F on its most recent progress report. Just after dismissal this afternoon, about two dozen parents and their children sounded a familiar protest: Budget cuts and a history of neglect are failing P.S. 137 students, not their teachers or Principal Melissa Rodriguez. That argument matches what two advocacy groups that are behind the early organizing efforts, the Alliance for Quality for Education and Coalition of Educational Justice, have been saying for years. Arguing that struggling schools would be better served by additional resources, the groups oppose all school closures. This fall, they expect to stage more protests at other schools on the DOE's "early engagement" list, according to Julian Vinocur of AQE.
September 23, 2011
Event aims to teach city to help schools instead of closing them
The city official in charge of closing schools and the union chief who has sued to keep schools open are both set to speak at a conference tomorrow about what can be done to help schools without shuttering them. The conference, "Effective Alternatives to School Closings: Transforming Struggling Schools in NYC," was organized by the Coalition for Educational Justice, the Alliance for Quality Education, and the Urban Youth Collaborative, all advocacy organizations. The event is meant to send a message to city policymakers that there are ways to reform failing schools without shutting them down, according to Ronnette Summers, a parent and CEJ member who helped organize it. The city Department of Education has closed 117 schools since 2002 and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said this week that he plans to close additional schools, particularly middle schools, that do not meet the department's standards. “Every year there’s more and more schools on the closing list and that seems to be the only reform strategy that the Department of Education uses to improve schools,” Summers said. “People in places where they know [closure] is not working felt that it was important to bring it to New York City to let them see that there’s other ways to improve schools.”
July 22, 2010
De Blasio: City fails to engage parents on school siting issues
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, speaking today on the steps of the Department of Education When two courts halted the city's plans to close 19 public schools this year, judges ruled that the city didn't follow state law that requires it to engage parents and report the impact that the changes will have on students' educations. Now Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is arguing that the city is making the same mistakes when it decides to place multiple schools in the same buildings. In a report released today, de Blasio charges that the city did not give parents enough information about how changes to space usage would affect instructional programs or about public hearings on the changes. "They're just doing the minimum amount of parent outreach so they can say they did," de Blasio said today. De Blasio's office and the Alliance for Quality Education surveyed nearly 875 parents at 34 schools, about half of those that the city proposed moving into new, shared space last year. (Roughly half of public schools citywide currently share building space with other schools.)
October 13, 2009
DOE likely to increase class size targets, official says
The city's Department of Education will likely lift the ceiling on class sizes this year, a department official said today. DOE chief operating officer Photeine Anagnostopoulos told the City Council education committee this morning that it was realistic to expect the city to "adjust" its class size targets. How dramatic the increases will be is still unclear, she said. "We have to go back and do some more homework," Anagnostopoulos said. Anagnostopoulous' comments came during a hearing on the department's use of state Contracts for Excellence funding. The funds are given to school districts that prove they will spend the funds in six key areas, one of which is class size reduction.
March 31, 2009
A call for Washington to thwart New York budget over ed dollars
On the eve of what looks like an imminent vote by legislators to approve a state budget, two education advocates are asking Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to consider halting the process immediately. Their concern: That the current budget does not give enough of the stimulus dollars to needy districts like New York City. The budget erases two years of planned increases in funds to New York City and other needy school districts, postponing them to the future. In a letter sent to Duncan yesterday, the groups, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity and the Alliance for Quality Education, also criticize the way the budget spreads out the state's pot of federal education stimulus dollars, a $2.5 billion total, between the state's school districts. The call for Duncan's intervention hinges on language in the stimulus law passed by Congress, which urges states to prioritize "equity and adequacy adjustments" passed in state laws when doling out their stimulus dollars to schools. The groups argue that New York's budget "appears to be in violation" of that language.
October 10, 2008
Weingarten, civic leaders join fight for fairness in budget cuts
UFT President Randi Weingarten at today's rally “We must even in tough times invest in our city, invest in our most vulnerable,…
October 10, 2008
For every education dollar, a different "Sex and the City" star
Cynthia Nixon (left) and Sarah Jessica Parker in “Sex and the City” On “Sex and the City,” they were BFFs, but when it…
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