Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What About the War on PUBLIC Schools?

Everywhere you turn it's poor Eva Moskowitz. How can mean old Bill de Blasio treat her so shabbily? After all, the woman has to scrape by on 499K per annum, and that's only 99K more than President Obama earns. It was certainly poor judgment for Carmen Fariña to say the kids were on their own, but she's since bent over backwards to accommodate.

Yet for 12 years I've watched school after school close. I don't think there's a single comprehensive high school left in the Bronx. All over the city neighborhood schools have disappeared, replaced by little academies, or charter schools. When one school fell, they'd move the high-needs kids to another, and soon it was a game of dominoes.

When Sandy hit my town, we gathered in the local high school to hear our mayor, and a lawyer from New Orleans told us about handling reluctant insurance companies. Do you suppose some neighborhood will gather at the new Michael Bloomberg School of Basket Weaving to discuss some community issue?

I've faced Mayor Bloomberg's war on public schools. Like hundreds of other community members, I spoke at PEP meetings. I spoke at school closing hearings. I watched a two-minute stop watch tick the seconds away as I spoke truth to Mayor Bloomberg's minions, who ignored me, parents, clergy, students, politicians, and countless other teachers. I don't recall any news reporters getting out of sorts about this. Mayoral control, as Mayor Bloomberg liked to say, meant just that. Sometimes the minions played with their Blackberries and didn't even pretend to listen.

James Eterno and I wrote a column about the false stats with which they were closing Jamaica High School.  Though no one contested our stats, they went ahead with bad ones and closed it anyway. They took what they determined to be the best part of a historic school, broke it off and started a new one. There were no outraged news reporters.

And now, Governor Cuomo has imposed a tax cap on districts outside NYC, a cap that's choking our neighbors outside the city. If anyone wishes to raise aid to their children beyond 2% or the rate of inflation, whatever is lower, they need a super-majority of 60%. Essentially Andrew Cuomo, the man who publicly calls himself a "student lobbyist," has declared that people who say NO to public schoolchildren get more of a voice than those who say YES. And if anyone wonders who says YES to public schoolchildren, that would be those of us who want the best for them, and those of us who want a better future for them. Sadly, that does not include our illustrious governor.

There's also another great New York program called the Gap Elimination Adjustment, or GEA, that cuts State aid to public schools. In Freeport NY, where I live, we've gotten cut by 30 million over the last four years and lost over a hundred teachers and school employees. We lost 7 million this year alone, and my kid got a thousand dollars less than she would have. I talk to her guidance counselor, and she doesn't know whether or not the electives my kid wants will be around the next year. In fact, she doesn't always seem sure she herself will be back the next year.

But you don't see NBC 4 screaming about that. The war on public schools did not end with the exit of Emperor Bloomberg. It's alive and kicking, and every single time a brain-dead talking head blathers about the "war on charters," you'd better believe you're seeing the real war, the war against those of us who serve every child no matter what, up close and personal.
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