Big business harms city public schools and students

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Down from 33, the city now wants to close 24 city high schools and reopen them using $60 million in federal turnaround money administered by the state. Seven Queens schools are on this list. The city Department of Education wants to close the schools in the fall, bring in a new principal, fire all the staff and let 50 percent come back and then hire 50 percent new teachers.

It is now June and the United Federation of Teachers and Council of School Supervisors & Administrators are seeking an injunction to prevent this from happening. Imagine what this will do to the thousands of teachers who will be transferred to a substitute reserve list, to the students who will lose known teachers and to the general functioning of large high schools.

That $60 million is a great pot of gold. The city will hire education companies to make schools function better and buy modern equipment, which should have been bought prior to big business and hedge funds getting involved in turnaround.

At the start of the school year, the DOE, using a different federal program, was letting nine Queens schools “improve,” but there was only $14.5 million involved and there is three times more money in this turnaround.

As Jamaica High School is closing down slowly over three years, the four new schools in the building have been given all kinds of new equipment, while the remaining Jamaica HS students have little or old equipment. Just as state officials were coming to visit the school to investigate this problem, the principal retired. It is terrible how the history of city high schools, which are integral parts of communities, is being wiped out.

Charter schools are mostly for-profit with speculators investing in the new companies created to operate these schools. In New York City, former City Councilwoman Eva Moscowitz now operates a chain of charter schools with a salary of about $500,000. Recently, she petitioned the SUNY board of trustees, where she gets her money, to give her an increase in the amount of management fees she receives for each student.

What gall — asking for more money for her private schools when the DOE cut 3 percent from all the other schools for two years in a row. The request was quickly shelved, but is still out there.

This column has explained why some of these charter schools, but not all, show good reading scores. Interestingly, some have been closed by the DOE. These successful schools discourage special-needs children, foreign language speakers and dysfunctional children from enrolling by not providing needed services, which discourages parents from applying. This column told of the schools in the old Seward Park HS building having good test scores after having lost all their designated special education classes.

Speaking of going after the money available in education, there is the case of former city Schools Chancellor Joel Klein going to work for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.’s new education technology division for about $500,000 a year. In November 2010, Kristen Kane, the former DOE’s COO, joined News Corp as COO, and then Natalie Ravitz, the DOE’s communications director, jumped on as Murdoch’s chief of staff. City Comptroller John Liu has criticized $10 million in no-bid contracts given to one of their companies.

The city now wants to close after-school Beacon Programs citywide. These after-school programs provide safe places for children to do homework, receive tutoring, use computers, learn skills and play. Why try to save a few dollars and threaten to close these after-school programs when billions are wasted on paying tutoring companies for work not done and the CityTime scandal?

GOOD NEWS OF THE WEEK: Read the Students of Distinction twice a month in all editions of TimesLedger Newspapers to get an idea of the good things students are doing.

BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK: The city Water Board is raising water rates 7 percent this year — higher than inflation but not as high as the 14 percent raised in each of the past two years.

I guess it pays to complain.

Posted 10:20 am, June 14, 2012
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