The Case Against School Closures

For all my anger, I will straight out say, that there is no malicious intent on Mayor Bloomberg’s part nor those of the billionaire boys’ club to propose the closure of community schools for replacement with charter schools.

Charter schools and “small schools” are nothing more than a theft of all the talented students of district schools and putting them in one place. So these billionaires walk into these charter schools – and they say to themselves, “Oh my god, black and brown kids can learn? “ We at district schools have always known that there is a core group of students in every grade level of every neighborhood that excels – those that become doctors, engineers and lawyers.

It is not the fresh coat of paint, nor the potpourri in the bathrooms – nor the first year teachers whose energy and fortitude are burnt out within a few years working in a charter school. The secret of it all is the top level students they privately entice from our neighborhood schools. Charter schools get a list of all the level 3 and 4 students from the data banks of the DOE. But these billionaire hedge fund managers who fund these charters are clueless of that fact. To them, they see black faces – and based upon all the negative stereotypes in movies that they viewed in their lives – the fact that minority students can excel at all seems a miracle. But, how much time did they ever spend in a neighborhood like East New York or Harlem – it could be counted in a matter of hours. They leave a charter school feeling exuberant as if they discovered some magic potion – which the rest of society somehow overlooked.

When you take the top students from district schools, you are in essence, removing the positive role models of those students who need that extra push to say – hey, this is what I should strive for. You are removing the student leaders, the would be positive middle class and professionals from a neighborhood that offer a growing child an alternative to the gloom and doom of negativity: gangs, drugs, teenage pregnancy, and drop out rates.

The mayor is abandoning the majority of our 1.1 million students to second class status in a two tiered system. While the budgets of community schools have been cut 10% in the past two years, the funding to charter schools in capital plans and resources have outspent the community schools by tens of millions of dollars. The charter schools dissuade ELL (English Language Learner), Special Education, and struggling students from applying – evidenced by their below average enrollment compared to public schools. In fact, in these “small schools” that replace a closed school, ELL and Special Ed students are denied enrollment for the first two years. Finally, charter schools have invaded public school buildings and have taken over the rooms that community schools desperately need – even sometimes the library.

Because Michael Bloomberg and his billionaire’s club have a perspective that if you are not the elite 1 % of society, having graduated with a bachelor’s degree, and able to cash checks with a multitude of zeros following it……you are a failure – that the majority of inner city students- who tackle hurdles unimaginable to Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Klein….and yes, President Obama too (who has grown up in Hawaii and attended top private schools) – are failures as well.

The reality is that education benefits those at many levels of what society deems “successful”. If we only considered those successful, as reaching a certain data driven endpoint – this would mean that Donald Trump has reached nirvana and that Mr. Trump is the ultimate example representing human kind’s zenith. If that’s true, then the majority of us folks living meaningful and product lives are losers.

The main argument for closing a school is that less than 50 percent of the students graduate high school in 4 years. It’s been documented that only 53 % of all 4 year universities graduate their students in 6 years. Should we phase out these universities as well? The reality is that the 5 year graduation rate of these “failing” high schools rises to 75%, and continues to rise. According to the US census, up to age 25 years of age, the achievement gap between the races ceases to exist ( Even through all the years of underfunding and overcrowding – these gains were made by communities, and should be celebrated, even if it was achieved without the help of Mayor Bloomberg.

And what about the carpenters and cosmetologists, the plumbers and fireman, the small business owners and the police officers – to whom each day of our lives, we depend to make up this grand society? And what about the artists and musicians that we ask to remind us that humanity has a unifying and loftier connection than the price of our stock portfolio. How many of us turn to a Mozart, a Bob Marley, a Dylan, and a Marvin Gaye – every day we ride the trains or crawl through traffic to remind ourselves that there is something other than data driven bottom lines. Well, under Bloomberg’s world, where arts and music programs are cut for schools to stay intact and meet its corruptive math and English data criterion – the reality is only …….numbers, numbers, numbers!

Can we remember that Woody Allen dropped out of film school, and that Einstein dropped out of college? Can we remember that Mr. Obama had moments of doubt as a young high school student – doing drugs and cutting class and that a strong mother had to be there for this insecure youth – to guide him to his potential? In the cold business world of Mayor Bloomberg: NO – either you make the mark now in the prescribed path, or risk phasing out.

Well, Mr. Bloomberg represents that cold and unfeeling bottom line. The same logic that made decent folk sell mortgages to people they knew could not afford it. It is that same logic that made people lie about revenues in Enron, in the biggest accounting fraud known in our history. It is the same logic health insurance companies use to deny coverage to millions of Americans.

The truth is that Michael Bloomberg is only one man. And the fact that one man has so much sway in public policy has nothing to do with his ideas nor his morality, but rather the massiveness of his money. The reality is that the percentage of Americans with college degrees in the 2005 census was 27 %. You know what that means? The majority of us live fulfilling lives even though we don’t meet Mayor Bloomberg’s utopian, and now Orwellian, version of society. The majority have wonderful families, own homes, and live our lives – without a college degree – and some, can you believe it, without graduating high school in the prescribed 4 years.

We have to stop accepting mind numbing data without the filter of common sense. After all, a 100 percent of humans who drink milk eventually die. Why do we all assume that a high school degree in 4 years is exponentially greater than one attained in 5 years? Do corporate interviewers ask whether a college grad took 5, or 6 years to get their degree? If students in our public school system live in shelters and foster homes, living below the poverty line, and struggle to attain a high school diploma in five years – doesn’t that deserve even more credit than a Bloomberg or Klein that was all but expected to go to college in four? Doesn’t that child show even more character, drive, and potential than a Bloomberg? Or, are we going to end up as that society that vacuously praises the dollar amount of a Paris Hilton, a George Bush, a Bernie Madoff, and yes…..a Mayor Bloomberg.

Seung Ok
William H. Maxwell H.S. (Career and Technical School)


2 thoughts on “The Case Against School Closures

  1. Some of the schools in Chicago should be closed – we've already seen what unions have done in Detroit. (Car manufacturers leaving the country, bailout) If teachers are not good at their job, the school system should have the ability to get rid of them. They should not be forced to keep them on staff by unions. We need HUGE changes in Chicago, closing these schools sounds like a great first step. With better education, not saving the old schools that don't work and are generating uneducated gangbangers – we can have a better future.

    Posted by 3d studio max tutorials | January 7, 2010, 7:20 am
  2. It would be a dangerous mistake to rely on the UFT and the Democratic Party — including Obama — to fight this battle. They are a part of the problem, not its solution.

    Socialism and the defense of public education

    Posted by Anonymous | January 17, 2010, 3:44 pm

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