NEW VERSION: Educational Dysfunctionality and Discrimination in the World of Bloomberg/Klein

Joel Klein disregards decision by State Ed Commissioner regarding Girls Prep charter school expansion while students with autism are forced to move. As outrage mounts, he reverses himself. But the controversy over basic decisions to favor charter schools while discriminating against special ed children won’t go away.

Discriminatory and Destructive Precedents Set PS 15 and PS 188/94 State Education Commissioner Appeals

Over the last week we have heard and seen tremendous outrage over Chancellor Klein’s evoking of emergency powers, disregarding Commissioner Steiner’s ruling in the PS 188/94 appeals case. Local and State politicians have had no fear, and have minced no words, making clear their opposition to Klein’s abuse of power in evoking an emergency clause to allow Girls Prep Charter to stay in the PS 188 building despite the impact on the children with Autism at the school. Klein has recently backed down from this position, now stating he will not use emergency powers, but rather look for an alternate place, for at least a year, for Girls Prep Charter School. In a press statement the DOE continues to claim that there is more than enough room in the PS 188/94 building and maintains not a single child with special needs will be displaced. The DOE’s lack of understanding for and consideration of children with special needs continues to be astounding. For both schools, and for potential co-location sites across the city, what has been lost in the fray over these process and power positions, are the destructive and discriminatory precedents set in Steiner’s decision to dismiss the PS 15 appeals case completely, and his ignoring of the merits in the PS 188/94 case he supported.

Both appeals targeted two distinct areas of complaint. First, that the DOE did not follow proper procedures as dictated by the change in school utilization portion of the Mayoral Control Law, particularly in terms of meeting the standard and intention of the law regarding the Educational Impact Statements, which was further defined by the Mulgrew decision. Secondly, both appeals made substantive complaints, detailing how the DOE made arbitrary decisions when it came to building and space utilization and allocations; largely ignoring the needs and legal mandates of students receiving special education services as well as disregarding the space needs of all students.

The DOE was required to respond to the complaints laid out in the parents’ appeals, and their claims were shocking. In their responses the DOE charged that even though the law requires outreach efforts to maximize public notification and input, they are not required to provide Educational Impact Statements to parents other than through the internet, email and principal notification. Steiner’s agreement with these claims now limits the DOE’s burden to notify the public. Considering many of these co-locations are targeted in isolated, lower socio-economic, under resourced neighborhoods, the majority of parents and community members will not be notified of potential co-locations and the impact on their children, as was the case in the PS 15 community.

Further, regarding Education Impact Statements, the DOE claimed they were not required to specifically outline a space plan for the co-located schools or detail the impact specifically. Steiner agreed with this logic citing the PS 15 EIS stated there may be some impact on enrichment programs and non-mandated services, but that the DOE felt there was more than enough space in the building and that a space plan would be created later with the schools’ building council. To be clear, Stiener used a document of questionable validity to justify his ruling. For this and many other reasons, these justifications are unacceptable. This decision flies in the face of the Mulgrew decision and permits the DOE to provide vague and self-serving assessments and justification of school space and impact. Under this decision, Educational Impact Statements must only state the DOE’s assessment of available space in the building (based on faulty utilization and instructional footprint allocations) and claim that there is enough. They are not accountable for in any way explaining where affected programs will go. For PS 15 this has meant the loss of a science lab, special education office, and several classrooms forcing multiple out-of-classroom providers (mandated and non-mandated) to share space, often at the expense of student privacy and optimal learning conditions. It has meant loss of enrichment and the down-scaling of intervention programs because there are no rooms in the building that are not programmed throughout the day, including the cafeteria, gym, and auditorium. None of these specifics were required to be included, according to the DOE and Steiner, in the EIS, and apparently none of these losses are considered significant enough to define the DOE’s judgment as arbitrary. One wonders if Steiner, Bloomberg, or Klein would have allowed these impacts on their own children.

Among the litany of alarming assertions by the DOE, upheld by Steiner, none is more striking than the claim that designated space is not required for special education related services and that stairwells and hallways are perfectly acceptable spaces for students to receive related services. Steiner did not even address the substantive issues regarding these claims in his decision. His only attempt to address the parents’ challenging the merits of the DOE’s co-location proposal was to say that he, “…could not conclude that the (DOE’s) decision was arbitrary…(because the) DOE denies the assertions and contends…the building can support both schools.” For students at PS 15 this will mean speech in the backs of classrooms or in shared classrooms and physical therapy, occupational therapy, vision and hearing therapy in hallways, stairwells, and corners contrary to the students’ IEP mandates. Is this putting Children First, or Charters First?

In the DOE’s appeal response they state, “Sharing space is central to New York City’s strategy for school improvement.” This “strategy” sets up a competition for scarce space and resources where special education students will apparently be on the losing end. As we have seen in multiple co-location proposals, PS 188/94 included, special education children can simply be moved and shuffled around to benefit charter school access to public school buildings. It begs the question: what was the intention of the state law allowing charters access to public school space for lease? It is doubtful the intention was to take utilized space away from existing public school children in order to provide essentially free space and significant start up cost savings to charter schools.

The claims by the DOE in both appeals cases, and the written decisions by Steiner, leaves parents, and teachers, at odds with the DOE, while they try to advocate for the services their children need and deserve. Destructive and discriminatory precedents have now been set by these appeals: the DOE can engage in a public hearing process where no one is actually heard and meaningful consideration is not given. In the PS 15 case alone, there were over 1,700 written and oral comments given opposing the continued co-location in the building, contrast that with less than 200 in favor of the proposal, yet the proposal was approved and upheld with no regard for the true impact on PS 15 students, particularly the special education population at the school which makes up over 30% of the student body. The precedent has been set that no significant attempt to notify the school community is required, nor is any consideration for the delivery methods that would best serve the community in question. The precedent has been set that Educational Impact Statements need only explain what may be affected in a school due to a co-location with a claim by the DOE that surely, there is enough space no matter what the students, teachers, parents, or the numbers show. The precedent has been set that space need not be allocated for special education services and children can get these services in hallways, stairwells, and in the backs of classrooms regardless of health and safety hazards or what would be the optimal learning conditions for the child as dictated by their IEP. The precedent has been set that space for intervention and enrichment programs, the kinds of programs that every child deserves, do not require allocated space.

Much must be done as a result of these appeals. Policymakers on the local and state level must improve legislation regarding change in school utilization laws and the law that allows charters access to public school buildings. Changes must be made to the DOE’s bluebook utilization formula and instructional footprint to include proper space allocations for our children, particularly children with special needs. Ultimately however, the only truly meaningful policy decision to protect public education and our children will be the termination of mayoral control. Unfortunately, our politicians have not had the courage to stand up to Bloomberg and the wealthy forces behind the education deform movement and take any meaningful action, instead they have lined their coffers with hedge fund and charter school money and allow these discriminatory practices and policies to continue at the expense of our children.

Parents and teachers must unite and fight the forces that seek to dismantle public education, which is happening at the expense of our neediest and most vulnerable children. Make no mistake, what has taken place at PS 15 and at PS 188/94 will now be precedent for far reaching education policy in this city. With the charter school cap lifted, we will see a growing number of co-locations and we will continue to live in an era of governance by lawlessness, where dysfunctionality and discrimination are common place, where charters and profiteers come first instead of our children and where mismanagement and neglect of real public schools become the hallmark of this Mayor’s education reform agenda.


18 thoughts on “NEW VERSION: Educational Dysfunctionality and Discrimination in the World of Bloomberg/Klein

  1. Can I ask how you feel about such a program. I mean its designed SOLELY to help special needs kids, but its done by privatizing their services (something I must tell you from personal experience can make them quite a bit better). Yea its not enough money to really help, and they should get all the money that would have otherwise went to the public school (which is generally more then the “average” student receives) but it is still something, so how do you feel about such a program.

    Posted by Ender | August 13, 2010, 4:00 pm
  2. Hi Ender. I am a special eduction teacher, which I saw you are studying, and answering this question is a difficult one. Offering options to students with special needs, when their needs are not being met in public schools is something that would be hard to argue with, after all, they are the most needy and vulnerable children we serve! However, it should be our moral imperative to educate ALL children, not separate and sort them into different schools and school buildings; which is the intended or unintended (depending on how cynical you are I guess, or realistic) consequences of privatization. What is most concerning is that while we are moving at a rapid pace under this current reform (or deform agenda) there has been little or no consideration to our neediest students in terms of reforms and imporvements to public education that will include and support them. Rather, as this video show, the policies are marginalizing them more. As a parent, I would not be happy with a $2,000 voucher for my kid, I would rather fight to have my child, and other children, served appropriately in the public school system, in my neighborhood school.

    Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2010, 3:09 pm
  3. I have a friend name Z. His mom fought for years to have him served in public schools. They did pretty much everything they could, and got pretty far. He had an individual aide, full resource room privledges, testing allowences, etc.

    Sadly after a while she began to realize it didn't matter what she did. Too often teachers didn't understand him, and didn't really care too (it doesn't matter if they are a minority, the fact they existed could set him severly back in a subject). The services he did receive got him from barely passing to a 2.5 or so GPA. But for a kid with his intelligence a 2.5 GPA is pretty crappy. Add into that issues with bullying and them doing NOTHING to help with social skills, and we have a problem.

    So she found him a nice private school where so far he seems to be threiving. Sadly, this option might not last. It will probably get him through the worst of it, but 5 years of tuition at how much shes paying, not very likely she will be able to afford that.

    While I love the thought of being able to educate every student equally in the public setting, there are logical problems with this. 1) Most public school teachers have taken one course in how to education special needs, many of them when special needs were considered a vastly different thing. Even if you add to that an occasionally conference, that isn't that much. Its hard to understand a very different kid (think severe asperger's) if you spent 30 minutes (a fair estimation in my experience) covering that disorder in a college course 10 years ago.

    Next bullying/social issues. Middle school kids are horrible cruel little creatures. Stick someone who is quite different, but not disabled in a typical way (not deaf, handicapped, etc) they are bound to be targets. Teachers can try to protect them, but there will always be some that say “boys will be boys” or “this will help teach them to be normal” and there is always the fact that bullies are generally smart enough to do it out of sight of teachers. While this won't neccessrily stop all bullying, taking targets away certainly will help, especcially targets that generally can't defend themselves.

    I can come up with more reasons, but suffice it to say, unless public schools can do a nice clean sweep of bad teachers… it just won't work to have everyone educated together, at least not in today's society.

    Posted by Ender | August 15, 2010, 9:37 pm
  4. So private schools don't have “bad” teachers? I work in a school, a public community school, where we successfully serve students of every race, background, and disability from MR to Autism to the most severe LD and ED. Are there a few duds in our building yes, sure, just like there are at every other workplace across the country… but do we fight hard to serve all of our kids in the best possible way, yes we do. Just as you gave one anectodal story about a child with special needs who was let down by the public school system, I can give you one (and many more)anectodal examples where the exact opposite is true. The issue with serving kids w/ special needs in the public school system is not “bad” teachers, it's policy and resources… if programs for students with special needs and training for teachers of students with special needs were in any way a priority, we would not be having this conversation. Do not blame teachers for the failings of those who create the policies, cultures, and climates in school buildings… I along with many fellow educators fight tooth and nail for kids with special needs and believe we have a moral imperative to provide them with the same free public education we provide to other children.

    Posted by Anonymous | August 16, 2010, 11:42 am
    • Not sure what you mean by questions, but here are some poitns that come to mind:1. By not educating children about sex, we leave them open for disease and pregnancy since they don’t understand the science behind their genitals and changing bodies in general.2. Many parents do not talk to their children about sex and their changing bodies, so children turn to friends, so the information they do get is not necessarily factual. Was this answer helpful?

      Posted by Dewi | February 8, 2014, 8:42 am
    • 10 And thou shalt stone him with stones, thathe die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from theLORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt,from the house of bondage. Secara umum, priamenunjukkan dominansi dan statusnya dengan mengontrol setiap percakapan.Velasquez once told a story about introducing songs from the group’srecent album  El Desierto y la Ciudad  in the Southwest:The introspective tone of the first few tracks caughtmany off guard — especially those expecting party music —but soon the talking stopped, the crowd quieted and the audience got a glimpse of a maturing band.It’s essentially a rechargeable 2200 mAh lithium ion batterywrapped up in a compact cylindrical shell, but it can hold itscharge for upwards of three months. Why, then, on the eve of the probe becoming public,would the league in effect hand out a reward to the very teamat the heart of the alleged wrongdoing?

      Posted by | February 10, 2014, 2:19 am
  5. With private schools you can find schools passionate about serving those with special needs. His private school is called Hill School of Fort Worth (waits for you to look it up). Yes, I know the first thing you will notice is how much tuition is, but do you think a full time aide in a public school setting is cheap? Beyond that he is educated by special education teachers 24/7 without being in a typical self-contained climate.

    Then there is the factor of choice. There are so many times that a choice, any choice, would have been better then none. Look at Alex Barton, look at Tyler Long (admittedly not entirely paralel cases, but certainly you case see the simularities, I will wait for you to check those names out). This is not to say this is the public school experience for everyone, but it is the public school experience for far too many to ignore (yours truly included). Can you imagine if Alex Barton was told that he had to go back to the same school where he had been emotionally abused by a teacher (who is still working there) the next year… thats how Tyler Long's are created, by giving kids no way out.

    As for it being one kid here and there, ABC News (trustworthy enough I assume?) did a report a few years ago that concluded that 90% of students with asperger's were bullied on a daily basis in parts of this country (and I will testify that I bet thats a pretty liberal guess) ( ). Admittedly its about as bad as it ever could be for aspies, invisable disabilities pose all sorts of problems others don't have to deal with, but suffice it to say I doubt it gets that much better for HFA kids or severe ADHD kids.

    Have you read anything by Luke Jackson? Have you read the latest by Tony Attwood? How about Barbara Kirby or Nick Dubin? Have the gened teachers at your school? How easy these books are to read. With the exception of Tony Attwood's book these books should take teachers maybe 2 hours to read, but are full of invaluable information. So have you done it, do you think other teachers at your school have? Maybe thats why Luke Jackson, despite his obvious intelligence (wrote 2 published books by the time he was 14, one of which is still widely used in the community today) had to drop out because he couldn't take the bullying anymore.

    By my estimations, my buddy was having more then 20,000 spent on him every year, it just wasn't being spent intelligently, and I am not sure it can be spent intelligently in the public school system. Until you provide classrooms where they can be around those that are just like them, and teachers can deal only with students just like them… problems will still be there. You might consider this discrimination and probably evil, but as someone who survied (mostly literally) the public education system as a special needs kid, I consider it a blessing.

    Posted by Ender | August 16, 2010, 12:28 pm
  6. Man… I hate it when people get tounge tied by me, though generally it takes a bit longer for that.

    Posted by Ender | August 19, 2010, 12:15 pm
  7. LOL. It is summer my friend… one can not check these sites that regularly! I am not tounge tied… we simply must agree to disagree. You offer anecdotal evidence, of which I can offer the same. You see the merit in finding ways to partially meet the needs of parents who could take small portions of a larger private school salary as compensation for disenrolling in a public school. I see the merit in fighting for a free and fair public education for ALL children. Secondly, I am very sorry you and your friend suffered in the public school system as you describe, I hope you came across at least some teachers who met your needs. It always saddens me as an educator to hear how imperfect we are, I am sure you will find this too once you are finished your studies. There is no perfect, not even in the private schools you speak of, not even in the homogeneous classrooms you speak of, but… and perhaps I am foolish… I would like to believe that fully diverse public schools where ALL children are safe and supported while receiving an excellent education are possible.

    Posted by Anonymous | August 22, 2010, 7:23 pm
  8. 90% is hardly anecodatal, maybe not empirical yet either, but hardly anecodatal. Most researchers have found that rate to be well over 50% too (though few have went into just asperger's)? An empirical rate of well over 50% would be pretty damn scary to me, especcially considering when things go wrong, things can go really wrong. Maslow knew that decades ago.

    The school you describe may be possible, but it will never happen here, at least not anywhere near everywhere. This is for a variety of reasons. First, cost, the schools you talk about would probably cost 30,000 per kids for special needs kids.

    Second is teacher training, how much more training would teachers have to get to know what you know about kids with special needs? Do you think they are willing too? Not trying to blame teachers unions, but do you think they would? There are always good teachers that WANT to meet our needs, being able to is another thing. One 3 semester hour class isn't enough, as I am sure you well know.

    I could go on, but really, I am tired. In this current climate there is no way this works. Society is too against giving extra money for special needs kids. As are teachers in general.

    How long does this fight last? What happens to us kids in the meantime? Will there be more Tyler Longs? Will there be more Alex Bartons? Will that number still be near 90%? When you can promise my friends a safe environment they should be forced to go there, until then parents should have real choice, no matter what their economic status is.

    Posted by Ender | August 22, 2010, 11:01 pm
  9. P.S. I was just listening to the radio driving to the store and heard a great commercial describing how I feel about the average public school. I will try to sum it up here. Simply put it was a convo between a teacher and a student…

    Teacher: Hello class, pleaes open up your book to chapter 13.

    Student: Ummmm I still have some problems with chapter 12, can we go back there real quick? You see science isn't exactly my strong point. But I am really strong in algebra, a prodigy really. So could we please spend some more time on chapter 12.

    Teacher (in a sterner voice): Open your book to chapter 13 please.

    Maybe a slight exageration, but that is pretty close to my experience with public schools. Admitted private schools only give you slight relief from that, but there is some. And homeschool / virtual schools give a lot of relief from that

    Posted by Ender | August 23, 2010, 8:01 pm
  10. What about the children who “choice” does not benefit? The children whose parents will not follow up? Parents who can not 'pay the difference'? Children who are abused and neglected? I fight for these children. I understand your desire for choice, but for those who could not take advantage of that 'choice', we have to advocate for public schools that serve ALL kids. In CA recently they found that “choice” actually increases segregation and subordination of those underserved already, particularly students w/ special needs. I have very little faith that 'choice' is a panacea for any kind of real change. What we need is a societal shift; I believe in the day where spending $30,000 on a special needs kid is not even a question if that is what is needed. I'll fight for that as long as I am alive… choice is a great concept, but it too has dark consequences… I'm not interested in small changes, I want the whole thing: community public schools that work for all children. And again, I know it works, because I live it. If we can do it, with very limited resources, it can be replicated and even improved elsewhere.

    Posted by Anonymous | August 24, 2010, 10:36 pm
  11. I agree, 2,000 is a joke. The full amount that was going to be spent on the child should stick with the chile. 2,000 to leave public schools that were playing on average about 15,000 on the child is just stupid. But then again, for my buddy Zs mom, 2,000 is probably a lot.

    As for the child that that is being abused and neglected, it is great to advocate for him, but without parental advocacy NOTHING happens in this system. Even if the parents is advocating but doesn't know how to advocate properly NOTHING happens (trust me there, this coming from a kid who was going to be put into an ED/BD room but never got an IEP or BIP or hell even a 504).

    Services go to the ones that know how to fight the best, not to the ones that need them the most. Watch the movie Autism: the Musical sometime paying special attention to Wyatts story. I believe it was the city of Cleveland, Ohio that paid 10s of millions on lawyers at least until a couple years ago to fight IEPs. It is a lie that you can't fight city hall, it just takes A LOT of money to do so.

    I get trying to change this system, I really do. But what happens in the meantine? Tyler Long wasn't the first disabled teen to commit suicide because of what was happening to him in school. And I can assure you that Alex Barton wasn't the first disabled kid to be emotionally abused by his teacher (this from experience). So what happens to the millions of kids like these kids in the meantime.

    You are basically telling me “In the long run the system will be fixed”, but to quote Keynes, “In the long run we are all dead.” We need something we can do NOW to help these kids, not 10 years from now, not 50 years from now, not 100 years from now. Yes work to fix the public education system so it serves all kids, but give an out in the meantime to those that need one, because once again, “In the long run we are all dead”.

    Posted by Ender | August 25, 2010, 1:12 am
  12. Hey Ender,
    Just read your profile. Good luck in becoming a teacher. All we can do with limited resources is fight and organize. Otherwise we just give up. Join the struggle when you are ready. All hands needed.

    Posted by ed notes online | August 25, 2010, 7:20 am
  13. I have been in the struggle for years (I also work with Bully Police USA to make sure schools are complient with bullying laws for one) but that has shown me how many aren't getting served and aren't getting fought for. Even you must admit we can't save the world, so I would rather give more of the world the means to save themselves.

    Posted by Ender | August 25, 2010, 11:42 am
  14. Your last line is touching Ender. And it does hit a note… but… far too often in this world, and especially in our country, we take the short view. Taking the “in the meantime approach” only undermines the existing great public schools we do have. In a time of all out attacks on public education and an economic meltdown that has caused over $400 million to be syphoned away from NYC public schools, we can literally not afford to give an inch in the battle over the privatization of our schools. As a special educator I am beyond understanding, and my heart breaks when I read the situations you describe (and again, am sorry you experienced suffering in the public schools)… my goal is a lofty one, but I choose to take a less fatalistic approach to this issue, each day I try my best to live and teach in a manner that will bring us one step closer to great public schools for ALL children. I know you will do the same, and your students will be very lucky to have you as their teacher. Best of luck to you!

    Posted by Anonymous | August 26, 2010, 11:08 pm
  15. Once again, “In the long run (term) we are all dead”. I know that is VERY cynical but its true. If we have the public education system “fixed” based on what we know today in 50 years, that will be a few billion students left behind. I don't buy that the money going to public schools belongs to them, it doesn't, it belongs to the student and no one else. Private school or not thats where the money should stay.

    Posted by Ender | August 27, 2010, 1:44 am
    • The agreement, aueonncnd Wednesday, gives Emanuel a victory that evaded former MayorRichard Daley, who often boasted of his efforts to make Chicago the nation’s greenest city. David Baer proble9me1nak tekinti, hogy az egyhe1zakkal kapcsolatos df6nte9st a parlament, nem pedig a ffcggetlen bedrf3se1g hozta meg. The Friday Megapanel: We’re joined by Guy Benson, Krystal Ball, and Toure. Recently,a0a 20-year-old apartment maintenance worker confessed to killing a child who resided at the same Canton, Georgia complex. The pecuniary jurisdiction of the magistrates are again set out in the relevant Act; that is, the Magistrates Court Act, Cap.10, Laws of Kenya.

      Posted by Leyla | February 8, 2014, 9:52 pm

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