Thursday, January 03, 2019

NYC Has a Charter School Space Request Form. Public Schools? You're on Your Own.

I'm absolutely flabbergasted reading Leonie Haimson's account of an office called "District Planning." I mean, I'm pro-district and pro-planning, so at first blush, it seems like a good idea. But like much of Bill de Blasio's education administration, it appears to be a leftover from Bloomberg and Klein. Changing its name does not appear to have much altered its fundamental mission.

Of course I know well that they don't do diddly squat for those of us who are egregiously overcrowded. Leonie discusses what it takes to run this group:

Their main qualifications for this job seemed to be able to portray no emotion during contentious and emotional public hearings, when teachers, students and parents begged them not to close their schools or force them into smaller spaces because of co-locations. 

I recall John White at the contentious Jamaica closing hearings, utterly indifferent to what teachers, students, politicians, residents and clergy had to say. I can't recall anyone saying anything other than reasons not to close the school, but White had a job to do, ignored absolutely everyone in the hall, and declared his intention to close it anyway based on flawed statistics. Mayoral control is all about sidestepping the interests of community, and it worked exactly the way Bloomberg wanted it to. Right after John White closed Jamaica High School, he crawled back into his coffin until he got a more prestigious gig in New Orleans.

Of course it's disappointing to see this office populated by a charter-friendly group of reformies, and even more disappointing de Blasio didn't see fit to clean house and start from scratch. I worked for him, contributed to him, and attended his inauguration thinking this was a new day for us. While it's true he doesn't close down schools at the same rate Bloomberg did, it's still happening.

What really hit home with me, though, was this:

State Education Law provides certain new and expanding charter schools with access to facilities.  Charter schools requesting space in a DOE facility, must fill out the Charter School Space Request Form.” 

What? There's actually a request form for charter schools that need space? Here's why this is shocking to me--there's no such form for public schools that need space. From my vantage point, teaching 34 kids in half a room, that's unconscionable. I'm not sure whether or not my school is at its highest enrollment ever, but I do know that I've never seen it so overcrowded before.

We're actually set to get some relief in the form of an annex, but that's years in the future. For now, I have no office space as chapter leader and our principal has closed his conference room to be used as a classroom. We have several poorly ventilated windowless former bookrooms masquerading as classrooms. Don't get me started on the trailers, but truth be told I'd rather be in a trailer than half a classroom. That's why I requested the trailers for a dozen years or more.

The only reason we're set to get relief is because I was elected to UFT Executive Board and brought it up the very first time I spoke there. Otherwise we'd probably have been offered nothing, which was and is the DOE's standing approach to overcrowding--do nothing and hope no one complains too loudly. I was once able to turn it around by working with a whole lot of people, getting us all over the press, but for various reasons, our agreement with the city collapsed.

It's an absolute outrage that charters are able to request space and we are not. City policy is that that district kids can attend district schools. That's fine, except the city can't be bothered to make sure we have any place to put these kids. That Eva Moskowitz gets priority over Francis Lewis High School is an abomination, and having a city agency that doesn't give a golly gosh darn about public school students is well beyond unacceptable.

It's time for Mayor de Blasio to take a stand in favor of the overwhelming majority of children and parents in New York City.

Where the hell is that public school space request form, Mr. Mayor?
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