Last week, the Panel for Education Policy voted to close 24 schools across the city. That makes 44 schools in the city marked for closure since February of this year, more than in any previous year.
Sure, it wasn’t exactly the mayor who voted to close the schools, it was instead the panel, which is roundly criticized as being a rubber stamp for the mayor’s agenda under the guise of operating under as an independent body.
Regardless, 24 schools will now enter what is called the “turnaround” model, which will relieve half the staff at some of the city’s largest high schools and close the schools, replacing them with a series of smaller high schools in the same building.
Nobody is arguing that New York City’s education system isn’t in need of some help. Many schools struggle to get just over half of its students into a cap and gown on graduation day, which is unacceptable.
Unfortunately, closing these schools isn’t just about the education of our children, it’s just the latest battle in an ongoing war between the mayor and the teacher’s union.
The mayor claims that the city was forced into this situation because it was losing out on $60 million in federal Race to the Top funds because the city and the teacher’s union failed to come to terms on a teacher evaluation system, a stipulation to receiving the money.
But earlier this year, the governor and the unions came to terms on an evaluation system, meaning that the funds were restored to the budget and should go toward helping these schools implement programs to raise graduation rates.
But it’s not just the mayor who is at fault. The teacher’s unions have been equally stubborn when it comes to change, preferring to keep the status quo and protect their jobs. The only difference is that they get to portray themselves as being on the side of our kids.
Which isn’t to say that teachers equal teacher’s unions. There are plenty of hardworking teachers in our school system that care about providing a quality education, we’re just not always sure that’s really what union leadership is concerned about.
So, now that the vote has been cast, we’ll see if the “turnaround” model produces results, or instead forces schools that were making modest gains in a different direction.
The unfortunate thing in all of this is that the mayor in his time in office hasn’t really put a sustainable system into place, and you can bet that when a new mayor is elected in 2013 and takes office, they will have their own ideas about how to “fix” the education system and the upheaval will start all over again.