Monday, August 31, 2009

The 10 Best Reasons to Oppose Charter Schools

Loretta Prisco wrote this for her local paper. Circulating it is the next step.

For a PDF of the following list (laid out 3x on a legal size page), please write: GEMnyc@gmail.com.


Charter schools are paid for with taxpayer dollars, but privately operated.
#10. Charters don’t serve children with special needs, English Language Learners, taking the potentially highest achieving students.

#9. Charters don’t allow parent or staff participation in decision making.

#8. Charters that are for profit serve shareholders, not students.

#7. Charters are huge moneymakers for investors exempt from union rules and some government and labor laws that provide oversight.

#6. Charters counsel out students who are low performing or discipline problems.

#5. Charters are invading our public schools and pushing them out of their buildings.

#4. Charters have been reported for corruption and incredibly high administrative salaries.

#3. Charters are taking needed resources from traditional public schools.

#2. Charters are creating a two tier system – separate but not equal schools as corporate dollars are pumped in to initially capture the student market.

And the #1 reason:
National studies show that traditional public schools are outperforming charters!
Still want charters? Have a deal for you –
I don’t want to swim in the public pool. Build a swimming pool in my backyard with taxpayer money; I’ll invite only those with whom I wish to swim.

Detroit speaks, we listen and learn

On the ICE's listserv is the text of a flyer that the Equal Opportunity Now Caucus and BAMN (By Any Means Necessary) distributed at the mass membership meeting of the Detroit Federation of Teachers today. The meeting attracted about 5000 members, and accepted a 60 day contract extension.

They call for a strike and picketing.

Our union doesn't do strikes – and not much demonstrating either, since they're collaborating bigtime on transforming the system.

But GEM does speak up, on the streets, at public hearings, on the steps of City Hall and in our blogs. What Detroit's putting on their signs goes for New York, L.A., DC, and all the other big cities across the country as well:


"NO MORE SEPARATE AND UNEQUAL EDUCATION"

"OUR CHILDREN ARE NOT FOR SALE"

"NO MORE CHARTER SCHOOLS"

Here's part of the Detroit flyer, and if you don't have time to read it all, head to paragraphs 3 and 4.

Motion for a Just Contract and to Save Dr. King's Vision for America in Detroit

Whereas:

1. The Bing and Bobb plan for public education and public services are the same plan. The plan is to privatize, degrade public education and public services and clear the way for private charter schools to become a competitive alternative to public education. If successful, their plan will relegate Detroit to a depopulated, second-class city forever, and to condemn the young people of Detroit to inferior educational opportunities.

2. For the last four months our union has engaged in a bargaining process with Rob Bobb premised on the view that our cooperation with Rob Bobb was the best way to both meet the needs of the children and youth of Detroit, and to achieve a fair contract settlement. The primary slogans of our contract process have been, "Don't do it to us, do it with us" and "We're asking for nothing and Rob Bobb wants us to accept less." This negotiating strategy and public profile of the DFT has made us weak and incapable of generating the community support necessary for us to defeat Rob Bobb and his billionaire charter school backers. We need a bargaining strategy aimed at mobilizing rather than demobilizing our members and the community to achieve a different outcome in the next two months than we were able to achieve in the last four months.

3. To win, we need to tell the truth, that what the DFT is fighting for is the defense of the right of every young person in Detroit to a high-quality, public education, and for the principle of universal public education. The DFT must adopt the three slogans featured by AFSCME Local 345 on their picket signs at the all-school-union rally held last week – No More Separate and Unequal Education, Our Children are Not For Sale, and No More Charter Schools – as the central public slogans of this contact negotiations. That will completely transform the character of our contract negotiations and will place teachers at the center of the fight to save Dr. King's vision for America in Detroit. There is no way Bobb and Bing can beat us if we frame our contract fight this way.

4. DPS students and their parents and community supporters have been engaged in a struggle to stop school closings since 2006. Our union has repeatedly joined with DPS management in claiming that school closings were necessary because of falling student enrollment rates in DPS. Our union must reverse this policy now and instead of standing with DPS management in opposition to the struggle of students and parents to maintain public schools and defend the principle of public education, join with them in their correct fight to stop the hemorrhaging of DPS students due to the cycle of school closures leading to more Detroit students being forced into charter schools because they have no neighborhood public school to attend. The DFT must support and join the efforts of students and parents to stop further school closings, layoffs and cuts, and to prevent more charters from entering Detroit.

Teachers are in a position to defeat the Bing and Bobb plan through our struggle for a just contract. A combined teachers- and Detroit city- and Wayne County- public workers strike will be necessary to assure that the billions of dollars of federal funds available for public education and to revitalize decaying urban areas actually come to the city of Detroit for public schools and public services rather than being diverted to fund the development of a whole new private primary and secondary charter school system . . .

Flyer by EON Caucus and BAMN.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Fake charter school hearing at I.S. 195 exposed

One of Harlem-GEM's members sent in this report on the hearing that took place two days ago at I.S. 195 over the addition of another KIPP charter in the building.

Hearings like this are rampant in New York City, and communities have to understand that watchdog involvement and activism is the only way to slow down this abuse of power.
A farcical forum on a new KIPP charter school slated to be place in IS 195 in Harlem took place on Thursday. A KIPP middle school has existed in the building for a number of years, slowly eating up space, forcing teachers to re-locate classrooms, even in the middle of the year. The proposal is for KIPP STAR to place a 9th grade, with 45 students from throughout the city, into the building, supposedly for only one year. Teachers at IS 195 literally found out about the new KIPP STAR High School last week! They discovered piles of school/teacher materials dumped into the boys and girls locker rooms. Unbelievably, KIPP generously offered to pay for the materials to be placed into a storage space. Presumably, teachers would be able to pick up these materials during their lunch breaks?

About 15-20 IS 195 teachers showed up to the hearing, in addition to someone whoa few ACORN people came, a DOE representative, a UFT representative, and 2 GEM'ers came. One woman from SUNY came, only to "listen" and report back to the SUNY board. Nobody from KIPP STAR charter school bothered to show up. Nobody argued in favor of the charter school being there. I know the 195 teachers saw Norm's blog the night before and came because of that. Teachers from IS 195 made comments to the effect that they expect the DOE to eventually attempt to completely phase out IS 195. Teachers at 195 stated that they assumed the high school would be staying for more than one year, not a bad assumption given the track record of charters in other places. As with other schools, this is not a "failing" school, even by the D.O.E.'s skewed standards. Many teachers there had been in the building for 10, 15 or more years (in one case, 31 years!), and pointed to the improvements that they have seen in the school. Teachers also raised concerns that placing a high school within a middle school setting would not be good.

Finally, the hearing itself was decried as a farce by everyone there. As work had already begun on the KIPP STAR rooms and with only days left before the school year begins, how could they really be getting input from the community? Certainly, there was little effort put forward in advertising this hearing, as teachers at IS 195 only found out about it at 8 a.m. the morning before, and parents and community members were not made aware of the hearing.

GEM representatives announced the upcoming "Truth About Charter Schools Forum" this coming Wednesday and got contact info from a bunch of teachers.

"The Truth About Charter Schools"


Highlights from GEM's brochure on charter schools, which is being distributed at many demonstrations, forums, and other ed events this month. (Downloadable PDF here.)


MYTH: Charter schools are public schools.

TRUTH: If something is public, it means it is open to all members of a community. Charter schools conduct lotteries to select their students; they do not aim to serve all. Charter schools educate 2% of our city’s children, yet they receive superior attention and power from the mayor and chancellor. Charter school families are given access to transportation opportunities that public schools cannot offer. Additionally there are estimates that charter schools receive as much as twice the amount per student as public schools. The DOE refuses to release important financial information to the public effectively evading the question of funding. True reforms aim to educate and provide for all children.

TRUTH: According to the NY State Charter School Act of 1998, a charter school is defined, not as a public entity, but as an “education corporation.” Furthermore, the law states, “a charter school shall be exempt from all other state and local laws, rules, regulations or policies governing public or private schools, boards of education and school districts…” Do we really want to outsource the education of our children to private corporations who are free from regulation and oversight?

TRUTH: Charter schools are not governed democratically and often limit the input and voice of parents, students and teachers. If our children are to grow up to be functional members of our democracy, they need to be witnesses to and participants in democratic process. Private corporations place the survival of the corporation above the needs of their consumers. Public entities are the opposite—they place the needs of those they serve as their priority.


MYTH: Charter schools serve the same student populations as public schools.

TRUTH:
Charter schools serve far fewer English language learners, students with special needs, and students who qualify for free lunch than their public school counterparts:

Data for 2007-2008 School Year
English Language Learners
Citywide Charter School Average 4%
Citywide Public School Average 14%
Students with Special Needs
Citywide Charter School Average 5%
Citywide Public School Average 15%
Students Receiving Free Lunch
Citywide Charter School Average 57%
Citywide Public School Average 65%
TRUTH: The Free Lunch “gap becomes even more glaring when you realize that charter schools are concentrated in the city's poorest neighborhoods, Harlem, the South Bronx and central Brooklyn, where even higher numbers of students qualify for free lunch.” In West Harlem alone, 80% of students receive free lunch.

TRUTH:
New York City will have 100 charter schools open this fall, the majority of which are concentrated in black and Latino neighborhoods. This is not coincidence. Our mayor and chancellor are shirking their responsibilities to run a publicly controlled educational system. They are instead outsourcing the public education of black and Latino students to unregulated, private corporations. In doing so, they have shown us that they do not want and do not know how to educate our black and Latino children. New York City desperately needs leaders who are experienced educators—they are the best equipped to understand and address the needs of all our city’s children.


MYTH: Charter schools produce better outcomes for their students.

TRUTH:
“Looking at 2,403 charter schools in 15 states and the District of Columbia, researchers at Stanford University found that students in more than 80 percent of charter schools either performed the same as or worse than students in traditional public schools… ‘If this study shows anything, it shows that we’ve got a two-to-one margin of bad charters to good charters,’ said Margaret E. Raymond, the director of the center and the study’s lead author. ‘That’s a red flag.’”

TRUTH: We need to consider how we measure the quality of education in our country. President Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, are pushing an agenda that equates student performance with a test score. Our children are more than just numbers—they are individuals with varied learning styles, strengths and needs. Focusing ourselves, and our children, on these tests dangerously oversimplifies the process of learning and does not allow us to foster the true and unique potential of our youth.


MYTH: Charter schools hire better teachers and administrators.

TRUTH:
Examining 2003-04 federal data, researchers from Vanderbilt University found surprising turnover rates for teachers in charter schools. They left at a rate of 25%; public schools had a turnover rate of 14%. Higher turnover rates create destabilized and chaotic school environments.

TRUTH:
Many charter school employees are overworked, underpaid, and denied the right to be part of a union. In a recent New York Times article, a few charter school employees spoke about these issues: “We were really proud of the scores, and still are…but the workload…it wasn’t sustainable. You can’t put out the kind of energy we were putting out for our kids year after year.”

TRUTH:
Many charter school administrators and principals are new and inexperienced. Take for example Harlem Success Academy, a network of 4 charter schools in Harlem that serves about 800 students. This chain is run by former city-council member Eva Moskowitz, a woman with no background in teaching who pays herself $370,000 a year. Overpaid CEO’s have contributed to the recent downfall of our economy—do we really expect a different result if we take this approach with education?


MYTH: Charter schools act as lab sites for innovative educational ideas and practices.

TRUTH: While the charter school movement was initially intended to be innovative, the schools sprouting up in New York City are anything but. Many are run by the same few charter corporations (Green Dot and Uncommon Schools) and push students through a scripted and test-driven curriculum.

TRUTH: Few charter schools aim to share information or best practices with their public school counterparts. The notion that these schools will pave the way to school reform is ill founded. We must empower public schools to experiment and innovate.

TRUTH: Charter schools are in the process of invading and privatizing public space. Around the city charter schools are taking over public school buildings and pushing public school children out. In many cases the charter schools remain in public spaces long after they have agreed to vacate. Why are we allowing our public schools to be replaced and privatized?


MYTH: Competition between schools will improve the educational system.

TRUTH:
Any system based on competition will have winners and losers. In the case of our educational system, the winners and losers are our children. We need to create a system in which everyone, especially our most needy, can excel. In a competitive system, one school’s success is only possible when another fails. Education is not a game—it is a right.


GEM's VISION

Our vision for public school reform does not include privatization. We support quality public neighborhood schools with smaller class sizes, equitable funding, union protections, local school councils, and neighborhood enrollment that protects and includes all children. We support a moratorium on charters, turnarounds, consolidations, phase-outs, school closings and any other form of school privatization.

Educators should be empowered to work with communities to develop curriculum that is grounded in the lives of the young people they teach. Each school’s curriculum should reflect the culture, needs and lived experience of its students, critically support student identities, embrace and recognize the value of students’ home languages, and invite students to engage in solving societal problems.

The Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) believes in a bottom-up, participatory and highly democratic process to engage schools and communities in school improvement.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Short notice — KIPP charter school hearing tomorrow


Ednotes reports there's another charter school hearing, which may have not been advertised well.
"It is not commonly known, but KIPP is establishing its first high school right here in NYC at IS 195 where all KIPP schools will feed their 8th grade graduates . . . "
See the rest of that post for some background on this.

You can also learn a couple of things about KIPP schools from its website, the home page of which says:
"Bill Gates hopes that his philanthropy will solve some of the world's biggest problems." (!)
More importantly, check out the list of articles The Chancellor's New Clothes compiled on KIPP. A couple of them relate to Jim Horn's article in Schools Matter (" In the KIPP schools, children are routinely broken down into a state of learned helplessness through inescapable surveillance (by school and parents), academic drudgery, repeated testing, and isolation and labeling as 'miscreants' for any infringement of rules . . . ").



CHARTER SCHOOLS INSTITUTE MEDIA ADVISORY:
NOTICE OF A PUBLIC HEARING


Contact: David Henahan,
Office of Communications
University of New York
www.suny.edu

For Immediate Release:

To: All Concerned Individuals

From: Charter Schools Institute of the State University of New York (on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York)
Date: August 27, 2009

Place: IS 195, 10:30 – 11:00 a.m. speaker registration)


Purpose: Pursuant to New York Education Law subdivision 2853(3), the purpose of the State University of New York Board of Trustees’ Public Hearing is to
receive testimony and statements from concerned individuals about locating the KIPP S.T.A.R. Charter School in part of the I.S. 195 building at 625 WEST 133rd STREET, NEW YORK, NY, which is owned or controlled by the New York City Department of Education.

In Order to Register to Speak at the Hearing or Submit Statements:


1. Persons who wish to make brief comments (no more than three minutes) are requested to file their names with the Hearing Registration Officer on the day of the Hearing, in advance of the beginning of the Hearing. Time for such comments will be set aside at the end of the Hearing, and such persons will be called upon in the order in which they register with the Hearing Registration Officer.

2. Persons wishing to submit prepared written testimony or statements to the Charter Schools Institute, which is conducting the hearing on behalf of the State University of New York Board of Trustees, should send written documents to Mr. Ralph A. Rossi II, Vice President and General Counsel of the Charter Schools Institute at: 41 State Street, Suite 700, Albany, NY 12207, via fax to: 518/427-6510, or via e-mail to:
charters@suny.edu. Written testimony or statements must be received no later than noon on Friday, August 28, 2009

In your written testimony or statements, please identify in a brief fashion the subject of your testimony. Written testimony or statements may also be given to the Hearing Registration Officer on the day of the Hearing.



Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Bloomberg "success" — 32% cut in per pupil funding, and did he say "racism"?

There's a new blog in NYC education called Teaching and Politics, and this post on BloomKlein's budget cuts has some strong stuff. Plus, he's got figures to back it up.

GEM is waiting for this blog author to come on board over here and lend us an experienced hand.
August 24, 2009

Real, uncensored effect of BloomKlein budget cuts


I teach at new high school. Last year we had 112 students and a budget of $1.2 million. This comes to just over $10,400/student. Our student body is 100% English Language Learners and 100% Title 1 (an indicator of poverty level) although we did not get any Title 1 money last year because we were a new school.

This year we will double our student register to 225, still all ELL and all Title 1. Our budget for this year - $1.6 million including the addition of Title 1 money. This comes to just over $7111/student. This is a cut of 32%!

$7111 per student. The next time you see that campaign ad for Bloomberg that claims he has done great things for education in NYC think of this - our school, with 100%high need students, will get 32% less money than last year. We will get approximately half of what schools in places like Scarsdale NY get. Half the money! Yet, in three years our graduates will have to compete with those from places like Scarsdale for college entry. This is the definition of de facto racism.

It is not hyperbole to say that these budget cuts are racist and anti-working class. They will affect black, latino and poor whites disproportionately. Schools serving these students are already struggling behind those in middle-class or rich areas. Our students need more services. Their families can't afford private tutors or "college admissions coaches".

re not enough qualified black, latino and poor white applicants. As if all students start from a level playing field. That is the real danger of this kind of racism. No one stands up and talks about "those people". Everyone gets to look like they are only concerned about "merit". And blame gets put on the victims - they're just not good enough. This is the racism that too many people close their eyes to because it is easy to ignore.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Founding convention of the Coalition for Public Education


The Coalition for Public Education

Parent, Educator and Student Power!

Telephone (212) 561-7368

For Immediate Press Release:


Contact: Jitu Weusi (718) 773-2252, (718) 857-1427
Sam Anderson: (917) 671-8207


The Coalition for Public Education will host a Founding Day Convention on Saturday, August 29, 2009, at DC 37 Headquarters. DC 37 is located at 125 Barclay Street in lower Manhattan near the Westside Highway.

In attendance at the Convention will be the following public officials partaking in a panel discussion on the current trends in public education and the recent debate on mayoral control of the school governance system in New York.

The elected officials confirmed for the convention are:

Senator Eric Adams
Senator Bill Perkins
City Councilman Charles Barron
City Councilman Robert Jackson
TV Personality Camille Yarbrough
NYS Assemblywoman Inez Barron
NYS Assemblyman Nelson Castro
NYS Assemblyman Alan Maisel
NYC Mayoral Candidate Tony Avella
NYC Candidate for Public Advocate Norman Siegel
WBAI Radio Personality Basir Mchawi

During the Convention members of the Coalition for Public Education will facilitate four Caucuses identified below engaging convention participants in a discussions pertaining to public concerns regarding parental rights, youth advocacy, labor issues of educators/school staff and community concerns about neighborhood school control.

Parent Caucus — facilitated by Muba Yarofulani, Anne Kjellzer and Brenda Walker
Youth Caucus — facilitated by Abu Muhammad and Rodney Deas
Educator/School Staff Caucus — facilitated by Linda Williams, Mark Torres, Lilly Taylor and Nicola DeMarco
Community Caucus — facilitated by Jitu Weusi, Mark Rodriguez and Roy Burrowes


Reading material

There is so much to read over at the NYC Parents blog. Here's the most recent posts:
Correction needed for Times article on charter school construction: "The NY Times misreports yet another important education issue, this time as regards charter school construction . . ."

"Effective Teacher" as Defined by the Obama Dept of Ed — which gives their definitions of that term, "student growth" and "student achievement"

Obama Education Grant Criteria Excludes Parents as Stakeholders — "While the administration has a long list of stakeholders (see below), parents are not on it. Charter schools, teachers unions and the foundations are deemed to be important stakeholders but not parents."


The NEA has just come out with a critique of Obama/Duncan's "Race to the Top," and this letter is being circulated in ed circles.
I urge you to review the National Education Association's (NEA) 24-page critique of Race to the Top. As Jim Crawford notes, it "is surprisingly strong and well documented by research." It also addresses the "need for professional development focused on the needs of poor and/or culturally and linguistically diverse students and the need to develop “Adequacy and Equity Plans.”

— Luis O. Reyes
Mr Reyes provides a link where you can download a copy of the NEA's critique.

And Norm Scott draws our attention to this article by Susan Ohanian: "The Gorilla in the Room". Excerpt:
Arne Duncan and his Race to the Top minions could not see the gorilla in the classroom if it sat on their Blackberries. They are so busy counting things—and demanding that teachers count things—that they haven't a clue of what classrooms are about, what kids need, or what teachers' real jobs might look like.


Lastly, this from Diane Ravitch in the Huffington Post: "Obama's Awful Education Plan":
Now that President Obama and Secretary Arne Duncan have become the standard-bearer for the privatization and testing agenda, we hear nothing more about ditching NCLB, except perhaps changing its name. The fundamental features of NCLB remain intact regardless of what they call it.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Education politics: Bill Dixon's radio commentary

Over at the Black Agenda Report, you can listen to Bruce Dixon talking about one of the sideshows in ed news these days. He's referring to the multi-city tour that Duncan, Sharpton and Gingrich are embarking on this fall to spread the Obama administration's vision of public education.

Dixon's vision veers from the press release version you'll find on sites like this or this.

Here's an excerpt from the transcript of his remarks, which is also posted at the Black Agenda Report:
Since the public debates on charter schools and privatizing education are ones that our elite cannot win, they have decreed there will be no debate. Instead of an honest public examination of the disastrous impact of No Child Left Behind, and its attendant decade of creeping educational privatization, corporate media, the Obama administration and its bipartisan allies are sending in the clowns with a 21st century three stooges remake starring the Rev. Al Sharpton, along with Republican former Speaker Newt Gingrich and Obama Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, elbowing and slapping at each other, yukking it up about their supposed political differences while they all come together around the corporate elite's version of “school reform.”
One of the people who has left a comment at the end of the post makes his position very clear:
The Obama administration must be stuck on S-T-U-P-I-D!!!
First, to believe in this privatization stuff at all, and then to send this trio out to talk it up.

Someone else says we have to do more than sit around and talk about all this:
The next productive step is a call to action to advocate what you write. Learn to be an activist in your community, church, school, and yes, the j-o-b.
GEM is of course on the same page, and is co-sponsoring a forum on "The TRUTH About Charter Schools" scheduled for Sept 2nd (see sidebar). From the federal level right on down through state and local governments, there are elected officials and business interests determined to get schools like these installed in public school buildings across the city. In every borough, that is, certainly not in every neighborhood (read between the lines on that one).

Charters should be finding their own space and not be displacing whole floors of public school classrooms. Pulling them into the system the way Bloomberg and Klein are going about it, and getting a lot of help from Albany, threaten the social fabric of inner city communities. There's virtually no community input, and laws are being both enacted and broken to allow it to happen.

The forum will take place at the State Office Building in Harlem beginning at 6 o'clock. If you plan on coming, you might want to get there early. It might get packed.

- jw

An important letter from a Parent Commission fighter

In the past few months, there was some talk at the street protests about the position the Parents Commission was taking in the battle over school governance. Were they caving? Were they supporting something less than all out No to Mayoral Control?

So it's really good to read over at Ednotes the position of one activist member of the PC, Benita Rivera, who has taken the time — and has had the clarity of mind — to lay out the story of the group's campaign against the inexplicable war that elected officials have been waging against New Yorkers for more than six years.

Please read the whole letter, because it is interesting, humbling, and necessary.

But if you're running out the door, at least read these bits:
Membership in the PC was (is?) open to all public school parents and to those who represented parents in education advocacy organizations. It is a completely independent, unfunded, parent volunteer entity . . .

Contrary to anyone who poo-poo'ed the Parent Commission's work, we DID and still DO oppose mayoral control . . .

Finally — what makes this on-going battle over education so very personal to me is the hurt I carry about my youngest being royally screwed by this system's control over his educational opportunities. In a few years, my grandbaby will enter the same system, likely judged as just another poor, Black kid attending a mediocre public school. I continue to confront race and income bias as the root of all evil, and recognize that no single group will ever be able to eradicate the achievement gap and obliterate the inequities by themselves. And so, I remain a soldier with like minded others in the Parent Commission, iCOPE, Neighborhood Schools for Community Control, 3-R's Coalition, BYNEE, GEM, ICE and the Coalition for Public Education. I pray that unity in our common cause will prevail.

But we really need to work differently from now on, better respecting varying approaches to skinning the fat cats, trusting enough to strategize TOGETHER from every angle – in order to mobilize more people and make the kind of history that public education in this city, deserves. If we succeed in working differently — but all together as public education activists and parents of all colors and incomes, I have faith that we can actually spark the fire of change in education policy our city needs. When that happens in the big Apple, I also believe all America will take a bite.
Inspiring, no?


— jw

Monday, August 17, 2009

More Bloomberg/Gates/Gingrich/Sharpton/Duncan connections:

The "transparency" that isn't

UPDATE

I posted this earlier this morning, but to help put it all into perspective, read Leonie Haimson in the Huffington Post: "Arne Duncan Has Become a National Embarrassment, Part II."



From Carl Campanile's exclusive in the NY Post today we learn that Bill Gates funded Learn-NY out of his own pocket.
America's richest man chipped in to help preserve mayoral control of New York City schools.

Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates — a pal of fellow billionaire Mayor Bloomberg — has secretly bankrolled Learn-NY, the group that joined the campaign led byThe Post to extend mayoral control.

Gates funneled about $4 million to the pro-mayoral-control forces during the fierce, dragged-out legislative debate, The Post has learned. A spokesman for Gates confirmed the donation and the approximate size.

The donation helped pay for Learn-NY's extensive public-relations, media and lobbying efforts in Albany and the city. The effort include advertisements, parent organizing and canvassing — including a five-borough bus tour and trips to the state capital.

Gates gave the money from his personal pocket — not from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has pumped $150 million into the city to develop small schools. . . .
But, search the ABOUT US page on the Learn NY website and you won't find Gates's name, although you will find the same claptrap about "accountability" and "transparency."

You won't find him mentioned on the LATEST NEWS page either, or THE FACTS either.

What I'm not understanding — yet — is how Campanile is keeping his job at the paper. To me, what he reports today is absolutely damning.

— JW

Friday, August 14, 2009

Bill Thompson: "As a supporter of mayoral control ... "

Norm Scott was responding to this press release by Comptroller Bill Thompson (Aug. 6th)
THOMPSON STATEMENT ON SIGNING OF MAYORAL CONTROL LAW
when he wrote the following:
I feel putting energy into making these politicians pay is a diversion from the kind of work that needs to be done to build an active movement with enough of a mass to make people take notice. It is just as likely the politician you replace will function the same way or worse, since money talks in politics more than votes. Certainly in the sense of which candidates get far enough to come before us.

Instead build the ability to pull people out like they did in Marine Park where every politician that could get there came running. If we could do that on a regular basis that would shake the tree.

A group like GEM is very new but has as a goal the creation of such a movement by building alliances across teacher, parent, student and community lines. As an example GEMers were to meet today with people organized by the Center for Immigrant Families to discuss mayoral control. GEMers are working with people in Bill Perkins' office and are involved in the new comm for public education (CPE.)

GEM has a Harlem committee that is working with people in that community and a Brooklyn committee that is talking to teachers in another group called CAPE about organizing an event in Brooklyn sometime in the fall. We will soon be releasing a pamphlet called "the Truth About Charter Schools in NYC."

What is needed are organizers to reach out and organize. Think about holding forums in various communities on the major ed issues of the day. With the mainstream press generally a failure, people are hungry for information and open debate on the issues.

There's lots of work to be done over the next 6 years to drive a stake (or steak if you're a meat eater) into the heart of mayoral control. So don't mourn (or Wein as some NATtering naysayers sometimes do). Organize.

Angel Gonzalez answered Norm with this, which he also wanted posted here on the website:
Thanks, Norm. You are on the money with your comments! You speak clearly here to the heart of what has been a promising strategy for GEM:
G — Grassroots — Reach out and do establish organic ties and relationships in struggle with our outraged community advocates, parents and schoolworker constituencies who are most impacted by the charterization/privatization/mayoral-control drive . . . and who are most willing to struggle against the shutting down and sabotage of public schooling.

E — Education — Work aggressively to educate them and ourselves about our analyses of these oppressive conditions facing our publicschools and communites. We'll use meetings, forums, leaflets, media, and whatever other available ways we can devise to raise consciousness. Our communities are "sleeping giants" that can and will be awakened to fight for their democratic rights.

M — Movement — Channel that anger and rage into an organized resistance and collectively develop tactics that will gain us victories. We need to organize and build our movement of parents, educators, community, workers in defense of public education. We must build this democratic movement inside our schools, our communities, and in our school-labor unions. As educators, we need to transform our sell-out AFT and NEA teacher business unions into genuinely democratic social justice type unions. Our challenge is on a local, national and international levels.
With our G-E-M strategy, our vision must include the building a massive education movement to successfully challenge the behemoth powerful corporate-government privatization forces (of the likes of Bloomberg-Klein-Weingarten). We do have a mighty challenge but we can win.

It will take time and lots of work. It will be a "marathon and not a sprint". If we want to improve school conditions
. . . for our students
. . . for our communities
. . . and for ourselves as schoolworkers,
we have no alternative but to fight the fight.
— jw

"This is a marathon, not a sprint."

Mayoral control is in, but we're not settling for mayoral dictatorship. Legislators have to know that while big business pushes for warehousing students, fake accountability, juked stats, computer mania, and blaming swaths of educators, the people are disgusted.

Make copies from the 2 pngs on the left (click on them) to form a double-sided letter people can fill out and mail to their own legislators, or to Senator Perkins for forwarding. It's foldable, for easy mailing. Or write to us at gemnyc@gmail.com for a MS Word that you can edit.

If you are collecting signatures and want to save printing costs, click on the 3rd page (below) instead.




GEM connects with the Center for Immigrant Families


In more than one meeting this week, GEM connected with members of CIF, which advocates for an under-served group of New York school children.

The Center describes itself as an "inter-generational and collectively-run organization of low-income immigrant women of color and community members" whose mission it is to focus on "the root causes" of what immigrant families confront living in this city and getting an education in our schools. (Click on the picture to get to their website.)

CIF wants to "take back" the schools.

In an oped in El Diario last week, Ujju Aggarwal and Perla Placencia wrote:
We want schools that reflect, respect, serve our communities – and that draw upon the rich resources within our communities as sources of learning and support.

Mayoral Control and they system we have now does not support this vision. Instead, under Mayor Bloomberg, a top-down, business model has been imposed on an educational system that promotes high-stakes and punitive testing.
Full English translation in Gotham Schools.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Disparate bills signed into law?

UPDATE:
I've spoken about this with some government people today and it looks as if it was a question of strategy. The Dems placed the governance bill on the Senate floor before doing the amendments. With no amendments attached, it passed. Paterson has the right to sign it into law because without the amendments, it matched the Assembly bill.

Recognizing the amendments are not particularly strong, some senators are nevertheless hoping to get them ratified in some form or other in the Assembly when it comes back into session. According the NY Post, the governor will sign them into law as well should they ever reach his desk.

Bottom line: We have mayoral control for six years. Whether we'll have modifications to it, who knows at this point. And PS: there's much more to this story, but I didn't get that far today.

— jw



According to all the Times and some other newspapers, Gov. Paterson signed the school governance bill into law yesterday morning.

The Senate bill has four amendments that were never voted on by the Assembly. It's not clear how the two bills can be signed into law until they are matched.
"Governor Paterson did not renew Mayoral Control this morning. His action to 'sign' the 'bill' passed by the legislature was indeed unconstitutional. No Mayoral control law has been renewed or enacted as a result. The Senate voted on August 6, 2009 to renew Mayoral Control with amendments. The renewal included a 'retroactive' clause to June 30, 2009 since the 2002 law had expired on that date. Even if the amendments were to be voted on separately by the Assembly the inclusion of that 'retroactive' clause required a 'reconciliation' by the Assembly since the two bills were no longer identical. Only after such a reconciliation would the governor be constitutionally permitted to sign the bill into law. The amendments were indeed inseparable from the bill 'signed' this morning by Governor Paterson. Paterson therefore did not uphold his oath of office to faithfully execute and follow The New York State Constitution. Having 'signed' the documents in secret, behind closed doors and without any public announcement, is indicative of this unlawful and unconstitutional action."

— Nicola DeMarco


Monday, August 10, 2009

Mayoral control is not yet law

UPDATE:
See the long article on this press conference in the Amsterdam News.

The Coalition for Public Education made it clear today that until the State Assembly approves the bill the Senate passed last week, New York City still has a "decentralized system of education as enacted in 1969," not mayoral control. "All reports to the contrary are false and misleading."

Jitu Weisu read a stunning list of negative accomplishments under Bloomberg's governance that included:
Police rule in the schools
Criminalization of children
Continuation of the classroom to prison pipeline
Excessive high stakes testing
Crowded classrooms
Crumbling public schools
Harassment of veteran teachers
The notorious "Rubber Room"
Reckless and excessive spending of public money
Excessive daily absence of pupils from schools
Using charter schools as a means to privatize public schools
No educational leader of NYC Public schools
No discussions, no debate, no democratic tradition
No science and computer labs in all schools
Charters in minority neighborhoods with all white staffs
"For all these reasons and more, we say No to mayoral control," Wiesu said. "We shall make this a political issue."

State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, one of the eight legislators who voted against mayoral control last week, said the system we see today resembles what "we waged a war against 30 years ago." There is no parent voice, and with the dismantling of the decentralized system we had in 2002, we have lost educators at the district level. There are no African-American men in decision-making positions in the system.

Ellen Raider (of ICoPE) spoke of three violations of human rights under this mayor: the full development of each individual child, the full participation of parents and community in education decision-making, and having a grievance procedure with transparency.

"Education is one of the key issues that ensure the continuation of our existence," said lawyer and political activist Roger Wareham, who belongs to the December 12th Movement, which organizes in the Black and Latino community around human rights violations.

Monique
Indigo Washington, speaking for City Council member Charles Barron (Dist.42), was concerned about the 100,000 students pushed out of the system, what she called the "out-of-school youth." We're building a grassroots movement to fight mayoral control that's "going into the summer, into the year." To communities where charter schools are being installed in public schools: "Do not fall for the game."

Among the other speakers were activist and scholar Sam Anderson (Black Educator blog): "We are opposed to mayoral control in every form," and Mark Rodriguez of the Political Parent Party, who is running for the State Assembly.

— jw

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Charter school hearings this week in the Bronx



Listen tonight on WBLS or WLIB


At 7 PM tonight


on WBLS (107.5 FM) or WLIB (1190 AM):


Community Activist Jitu Weusi and special education teacher Carmen Applewhite
will speak about the school governance bill, amendments,
and the press conference scheduled for Monday, August 10,
on the steps of City Hall at noon.


Saturday, August 8, 2009

Make your own label


We found these useful at community events collecting signatures, and some people started asking for them.

Email gemynyc@gmail.com for a a printout of the text and the easiest instructions in the world.

VERY IMPORTANT TO COME TO CITY HALL FOR THE PRESS CONFERENCE on Monday, Aug. 10th, 12 noon.

The Bloomberg's machine is swamping the press with the permanence of mayoral control, yet that won't happen until the two bills passed in the Assembly and Senate match up. That's a job for when Albany comes back into session, but it's not yet and it's not this summer.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Report of a charter hearing in Brooklyn — D22

There has been much talk in the blogs and listservs about the sham hearings taking place on new charters seeking a foothold in public school buildings.

We reported what happened over at the District 4 hearing (July 29th) in this post and in this one. GEM will continue to publish reports of the questionable and possibly unlawful practices of the DoE — we've been told the only city Department created without built-in oversight — as it facilitates the installation of charters into public school space.

[Re oversight: the new monitoring committee the Senate is trying to create will not give it "any more authority than it already has," according to today's Times.]

The person who gave us permission to post this email (originally on the Parents' listserv) attended a charter hearing in District 22, B'klyn, this week. She also reports that the Community District Education Council (CDEC) has said that D22 doesn't need charter schools and doesn't want them.
I was at the charter application hearing last night at Hudde [an IS] in Brooklyn for two new charters in D-22. That makes four so far this year. It was ludicrous. The first one, the Una Clarke school, at least had the attribute that I believe their motives were sincere. [They] said they were not going to seek a NYC school building, but when questioned, they really had no idea about the actual costs, budgeting, etc. They believed they could run the charter with DOE funds only. However their motives, as I said, appeared sincere, and I hope they bring their ideas to help the community into one of the schools there and see if they can provide some after school programs for their target population in conjunction with the schools.

On the other hand, the second applicant, the Fusion school, a 6-12 school, was a poorly veiled attempt to create a private all boys cultural school with taxpayer money. Their supporters consisted of all MEN, no women, who when directly questioned and were asked if they had children in the public schools would not reply, since the audience itself knowing the community knows that they currently attend a private school in the district — the Amity School. We then asked if they had any children at all, which they did not reply to. The only gentleman who spoke who actually admitted to having a child admitted publicly that he had been paying for private school and why shouldn't he be able to have a "good" school, not public school, and get it for free?

Who is screening these applicants? Can anybody with the time to fill out a form apply? And all comments are sent to charterschools@schools.nyc.gov, the DOE itself. Isn't this like the fox watching the hen house? Is there a state email address anyone has that we can have our parents send comments to?

And once again, as it was noted clearly by our CDEC who did a great job I must say, this hearing was held in August with all comments having to be submitted by sept 6 while schools are closed and people are out of the city, so that they can try to slip them in.
The written comments and records are supposed to be sent to the State Ed Dept. Who knows if, or what, the charter school people will be sending in, but they have 15 business days to do it. That's the law.

-jw

CPE exposes the media hype on mayoral control


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

THE COALITION FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION
Press Conference on the steps of City Hall
Monday, Aug. 10th, 12 noon


CPE is holding a press conference to expose that Mayor Bloomberg and his media friends are giving us the false impression that Mayoral Control is the current rule of law for our public schools.

As of today, New York City public schools do not have Mayoral Control.

THE COALITION FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION understands that in order for the bill passed on August 6 by the NY State Senate to become law, it must first be debated and voted on and approved by the full NY State Assembly. Then it must go to Governor Patterson for review and signature. Until that happens, we have a decentralized system as enacted in 1969, not Mayoral Control as enacted in 2002. Since the NY State Assembly will not convene until sometime in September at the earliest, we will begin the new school year under a decentralized system without Mayoral Control. All reports to the contrary are false and misleading.

Joining us on the steps of City Hall will be elected officials who are opposed to Mayoral Control as well as educators, parents and students. They will explain how this deception is being used to help promote Bloomberg’s bid for a third term as mayor and help legitimize the privatizing of our public education system.

FOR INFORMATION:
S. Anderson (917) 671-8207
J. Weusi (718) 857-1427


Parent to Chancellor: What's going on?

GEM received a copy of a letter that a concerned Bronx parent wrote to the Chancellor back in July.

We continue to be dumbfounded as to why letters like this have to be written at all in a public system of education.

Joel Klein is not asleep at the helm. He knows what's going on in Seton Falls elementary school and all the other schools that are being forced to accommodate the new charters. In the old days, these schools had to find their own space. Not anymore.

Obviously the disparity is there by design. If the new charters get to have refurbished facilities, smaller class size, more equipment, supplies and books, and longer hours for learning that's great. When parents want to send their kids to these kinds of schools, the essence of what constitutes public education changes. The goal is privatization, not what's good for a generation of kids. The kids who get into charters get trained up early on a disparate two-tier system, and the ones who remain in
district schools are never going to be in the favored tier.

The question is: when will tax-paying parents, teachers, and concerned citizens make enough noise to force the politicians and their appointees to change course. Letters like this should be widely circulated, and many others written when they need to be.

— jw
July 2nd, 2009

Dear Mr. Klein:

I am writing to you as the concerned parent of a student in the Seton Falls Elementary School - P.S. 111X. It has come to my attention that the Charter School for Better Learning has requested an additional 5 classrooms (inside P.S. 111X) for the upcoming 2009-2010 school year. After numerous discussions with other concerned parents, the concensus is that the approval of this request would be detrimental to the educational progress our children have been making in recent years.

The Charter School for Better Learning:

— opened in 2003 (utilizing trailers in the schoolyard of P.S. 111X - 3740 Baychester Avenue, Bronx, NY 10466)

— during the 2006-07 school year they began using our gymnasium for their physical education classes.

— during the 2007-08 school year their students began receiving breakfast in our cafeteria.

— during the 2008-09 school year they were given 3 classrooms so that the school could expand from 1st through 5th grades to kindergarten through 5th grades.


The Seton Falls Elementary School - P.S. 111X:

— first grade students were eating lunch, during the first 2 weeks of the 2008-09 school year, at 1:00pm so that the 3 Charter school classes could be fed in their earlier time slot. After parents voiced their concerns, the first graders were given back their 12:00pm lunch period.

— District 75/ P.S. 176 utilize classrooms (3 hearing impaired and 3 autistic).

— students receive physical/occupational therapy in the hallways.

— students receive academic intervention in the hallways. One area is set up outside the only passageway leading to and from the auditorium.

— on any given day the auditorium is where:
a) the music teacher conducts his daily schedule of classes.
b) school general assemblies and special events are held.
c) the Charter school holds special events.
d) outside entities use the space for events.
— the teachers have found innovative ways to make the hallway space look and feel like "mini classrooms" — but in the end — they are still teaching in hallways.


A few questions for you:

1. If there were 5 unoccupied classrooms in P.S. 111X, wouldn't they be used for the students receiving academic intervention and therapy in the hallways? Wouldn't that allow these students to receive services, with dignity, in the privacy of a classroom (with walls and doors)?

2. If the DOE re-organizes P.S. 111X to accomodate the Charter school's latest request; will our children's class sizes rise while theirs remain low?

3. If our children's class sizes rise — will they be able to continue the progressive strides they have made on standardized tests over recent years?

4. At its inception, the Charter school was well aware of the space constrictions and temporary nature of the trailers they requested to use. Wouldn't energy be better spent petitioning the DOE and or private foundations/corporations to assist them in finding a permanent facility conducive to their expansion needs and goals; while at the same time not encroach on an established school?

5. Will next years request be for an entire floor?

6. Will they continue to request space and services until they have taken over the whole building and Seton Falls Elementary School - P.S. 111X no longer exists?

7. Where will our children be educated then? Will they be bussed to faraway schools to overcrowd classrooms elsewhere?

Since 2006, prior to the start of each school year, the Charter School for Better Learning has received approval of all requests made to the DOE — without opposition from the parents of P.S. 111X students.

The time has now come for our voices to be heard.

We feel that all children should have as many opportunities as possible to achieve their educational goals, but not at the sacrifice of others with similar ambitions. To this end, we feel that our children have given up enough in the name of educational hospitality. The Seton Falls Elementary School is our community school and our children deserve full use of the building. We are determined to oppose the loss of anymore space inside of our school.

Please help us in realizing the educational dreams and goals we have for our children; while assisting the Charter School for Better Learning in securing a permanent facility, with adequate space, so that they may achieve theirs.

Your consideration and assistance in this matter will be greatly appreciated.

Yours truly,

Joscelyn T. Mahon
jtmahon16@optimum.net


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Something to print out, sign, and send in

The Senate voted to renew mayoral control for another six years this morning with the addition of four amendments, but the bill they passed won't become law until the Assembly votes on the same four amendments. Presumably that will happen when the legislature comes back into session next month.

Senator Perkins, one of the eight senators who voted against the bill this morning and is working hard against the disparate treatment public schools are getting in his district (30, Harlem), is quoted in NY1 to have said that passing the bill would have given people the chance "to end that kind of dictatorship, to end that wrong political approach that's been taken to the public school education for our children in New York City."

Senators Diaz, Huntley, Parker, Montgomery, Adams, Carl Kruger (unfortunately not Liz, and I know, different spelling), and Duane also voted against the bill; Perkins and Diaz voted against all four amendments. Huntley introduced three of the amendments and Adams one of them, so I'm not sure how they ended up voting against the whole bill.

There's an interesting article about the surprise new panel the senate created to oversee the NYC system over at the Daily News.

By the way, I did what I was told a week or two ago and called the senators to hold firm against mayoral control. In a relatively long conversation with one of Senator Huntley's aides, I learned that they hear from parents a fair amount, but not from teachers. I say let's get to it.

People in the Senator Perkins's offices on 125th St. warned us that freeing this city of mayoral control is not going to be a sprint, but a marathon. To this end, they are still looking for people to make their voices heard on this issue whichever way they can.

Make copies from the 2 pngs on the left (click on them) to form a double-sided letter people can fill out and mail to their own legislators, or to Senator Perkins for forwarding. It's foldable, for easy mailing. Or write to us at gemnyc@gmail.com for a MS Word that you can edit.


If you are collecting signatures and want to save printing costs, click on the 3rd page (right) instead.














Today's vote is not the end. We need to keep being vigilant and stop the lawbreaking and disparity in our school system.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

More on the District 4 charter school "hearing"

Last Wednesday's "hearing" in El Barrio/East Harlem on the Hyde Leadership and Mott Hall charter school proposals was attended by more than 40 people, most of whom showed up to protest placing these new schools into District 4 public school buildings. We wrote about some of what occurred at that meeting yesterday.

Since minutes weren't taken (even when requested), there won't be a record of the opposition to those charters filed anywhere. You could say what does that matter, since these schools are already a done deal.

Angel Gonzalez was able to get an interview with CEC 4 president Hector Nazario, who had things like this to say:
The truth of the matter is that the only reason charter schools want to be in public school buildings is because they save a whole load of money. . . They don't give schools a chance . . .

My belief is that the Mayor and the Chancellor want to get rid of public schools in general . . .

I think in the future everything is going to be corporate, business.
Everything's going to be charter, you will never hear of public school again.
Nazario has a lot to say. You can watch the full video segment here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Charter school testimony — this time Staten Island


See this Ednotes post for more on this hearing.


The following is the testimony of long-time educator Loretta Prisco at the Charter School hearing in Staten Island last night.

I don't think there were any formal documents such as this submitted in the Charter School hearing I attended last week in District 4 (see our previous post).

But one thing is clear: If this documentation is going to made public, we're going to have to do it ourselves, and by every means possible.


Loretta Prisco
30 Westbury Avenue, Staten Island, NY 10301
Public Hearing – Charter Schools
August 3, 2009

I am a North Shore resident, the parent of two very successful, adult daughters who graduated Title 1 schools here on the North Shore. More recently, as an adjunct from CSI, I had students placed in PS 16 for field placement and visited regularly for 7 semesters. There are no finer teachers in this system.

We don’t need a charter school on Staten Island, nor do many members of this community want one. But this is not about what the community wants or needs. We know from the practice of the DOE all over the city – you will forge ahead – above the voices of the communities, CECs, and the affected schools.

How can we be asked to offer comment on these schools without being given the plans prior to public hearings? Why is this hearing sprung on us in the middle of the summer? And without complete information? How can you hold a hearing without directly involving the traditional public schools that will be affected by these charters? Aren’t they still your schools? Are you writing them off? And their students?

Since these charters will happen, though in vain, we ask for certain things to be in place.
1. Unlike existing charters, these charters should have the representation of children with special needs and ELL children – especially if a charter is to be named after Barak Obama and any school preparing children for a “new world”.

2. While spending public tax dollars, charters do not answer to the tax payers. They only answer to their Board of Directors. Charters do not have a mechanism for parent, staff or community decision making. Any charter in this community should involve the community, in its planning and with its oversight.

3. Charters that are for profit serve their shareholders, and those that are not for profit serve their funders. Neither serve their students. In these schools, children’s interests should be served before the interests of shareholders or dictates of funders.

4. Charters are systematically invading our public schools and pushing our traditional schools out of their own buildings, despite their promises of moving out. The schools should not, now or ever, be shoved into our overcrowded schools.

5. Charters counsel out students who are not performing or are discipline problems and return them to our traditional public schools. Children who are accepted into these charters should stay in them.

6. Charters increasingly, have been reported for corruption, incredibly high salaries, and theft of service, while demanding that they not be audited. These charter school salaries should be commensurate with the UFT and CSA contracts, and be audited by the Public Advocate.

7. Charters are creating a two tier system – separate but not equal schools as greater corporate dollars are pumped in to initially capture the student market. You must provide the same class size and resources to the affected schools as you are providing to these charters.

8. Charters cream the highest achieving students off the top. The creaming takes place in recruitment of students, not in the lottery. There must be a system in place that prevents these nefarious practices.
I ask that the CEC allow for public comment after all plans for the school are released, the affected schools and community be properly notified, and community members have returned from public school.

Affiliations: Parents Action Committee for Education (PACE), Independent Community of Educators (ICE), Coalition for Public Education (CPE)



— jw

Charter school hearings: a study in evasion and ambiguity

Maybe they’re called for in law, but the one I went to last Wednesday in District 4 was a flimsy affair.

Here is what I found on the charter school hearing law (underline mine), and someone can correct me if I'm mistaken:


And this is why it is a sham:

We were not told when the applications for the new charter schools (Hyde Leadership and Mott Hall) were submitted, so we don’t know this happened within the 30 days or not. The only thing we were told was that they weren’t signed off on yet. It is not possible to submit any “records or comments generated from the hearing” to the State Ed Dept because (a) no minutes were being taken (see below), and (b) the people running it were not taping it. The law asks that "any and all written records" must be submitted, but it doesn't say these are actuallky required. I see this as a nice loophole these people either willfully or ignorantly slipped themselves through, in their continued abuse of process.


Here’s some things that did happen at the meeting, because I did take notes. Maybe I will submit them to the State Ed department. Please note that where I use quotes, I got the words down pretty verbatim. The rest is reconstruction from snippets.


The agenda showed two schools were going to make presentations: Hyde Leadership and Mott Hall, even though our advance notice on this hearing said a number of Harlem Success Academies would also be there. When we asked what happened to them, the district superintendent (a nice woman running the meeting) said HSA was "put on hold.”

Sandra Dupree (right) of Hyde spoke of how the school “creates a culture,” specifically a “character culture.” Catherine Molloy of Mott Hall also spoke of a “school culture,” excellence and rigor, and a couple of programs the school buys into: Avid, what they call “The Sanctuary” (sounds religious, doesn’t it? It’s about “emotional safety” of all the adults and students in the “culture”), and Technology. She also said the school must have a longer school day and year: there’s “no way it works without this."

(So far, nothing in here any public school couldn’t do without a vision and lots more money.)

Parent and ACORN member Annette Jimenez (pictured below at the WFP mayoral debate) asked: “Why do they expand at the expense of our own kids? Charters only service 2% of our kids. They don’t service special ed and pre-schoolers." She was worried about disparate treatment. Michael Duffy, head of the whole charter schools department for the DoE, responded “You are not being displaced,” which to anyone is a boldface lie. Look at every floor in every public school that's absorbed a charter and tell me there’s no displacement. And you may as well look at Michael Duffy's picture (left) in case you run into him at another meeting.

A public school principal in the district who said there is a charter in her building and she was never informed it was coming, said: “We’re learning to dance this dance. I’m concerned about them pushing us out of the way.” She asked of the charter reps: “What is the difference in emphasis [with charters]?” One of the Mott Hall people said, and I quote this verbatim: “Private education with government funding” — which is the way we all feel about the disparate treatment our kids are getting. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Community activist and parent Bill Hargraves announced to Duffy and everyone else in the room that he never returned any of his numerous calls. Duffy had no answer for this, though I understand they were able to arrange a meeting in the next days. One of the Mott Hall people said they “have no idea of the space” for these schools yet. Annette Jimenez (above right) claimed that the Harlem Success Academy schools have already been approved. Duffy shook his head No.

GEM member Angel Gonzalez (right) asked for a show of hands on how many in the room oppose the charterization of District 4. To say the majority put their hands up would be an understatement. Gonzalez spoke of the racist pattern going on, blaming teachers for the demise of schools, the charters being private schools without the voice of the Community School Boards or unions, that many democratic structures are being bypassed. “These are separate, disparate institutions.”

Bill Hargraves asked if minutes should be taken. Duffy didn’t care to answer that and remained silent. When Hargraves pushed, Duffy came out with something like he's not willing to interpret the laws. Then he said: “Nobody has the responsibility” of taking notes. (Thank goodness I was there to help out.) Bill asked Duffy to appoint someone, and he refused.

One person asked what the projected breakdown of the schools would be once the kids were assigned there, which opened up a whole issue of the lottery selection process. One of the charter people was adamant that it was strict, with equal chance, but then added “they have to give preference to the districts they’re serving.” No longer sounds like equal chance to me.

Mott Hall’s projections were: 59% latino, 39% African American, 14% special ed, and 12% ELLs. I had to ask how they could claim lottery when they knew what percentages would be in effect when the process was over. They said these percentages were based on the community profile, not what would end up in the school. I responded that the figures would then be meaningless, because if it were true lottery, the school could perhaps end up with 100% latino and no special ed.

That’s when another of the charter reps tried to “re-explain” the lottery process. He said they pick a kid, and put the name in a category, then they pick another kid and put that name in that one’s category, and so on, til the percentages are reached. I was aghast and said that wasn’t lottery. Michael Duffy said there’s a “list maintained by a mailhouse.” It is not sent out selectively, it’s "not possible that they’re sent out selectively." He added: “Maybe only the parents of levels 3 and 4 responded” to the mailing. Folks, take your pick — straight lottery, or lottery fiction — either way, we don’t know what’s going on, we won’t know, and you can't trust any of these people to either know or say.

I think it was a principal who asked if the charters were going to have a 12:1:1 class and whether they would openly ask for these kids and then send them back to the public school when they couldn’t accommodate them. She said that there were more than 10 kids she had to take back into her public school because the charter school could not/would not service them even though they accepted them. (Considerations of elevators, vision, etc.)

Before the meeting had started, I asked a 20-something DoE person if the staff of the charters are UFT members or not. He said the charter schools don’t "interest" themselves in matters like that. (Wow.) When I asked whether the contracts with these staff members are available online, he didn’t know. Later in the meeting, though, when the subject of union came up again, Duffy said that with regard to collective bargaining, 10 charters have UFT members teaching in them. It’s up to the charter school how they want to do this.

A union rep told me the union is working on the contractual situation, but I couldn’t get any further information from Duffy or anyone else. They told me if I want to find these contracts, go to the UFT website, which I did. The only current document I see there is the Green Dot contract (Aug. 2008 – Aug 2011), which I'll put up in another post. (You can get it as a pdf from Edwize here.) If anyone knows where we can find the other contracts, please let us know, because I’m sure they’ll be interesting. Duffy couldn’t care less.

I forgot what time the meeting ended, but we kept talking to the reps from the Hyde and Mott Hall out on the pavement. Nice people. Good values, except a few: laws are being broken, schools are getting disparate treatment, and we are somehow re-configuring segregationist structures on a grand scale.

— jw