The Bleak Future for NYC Students

More evidence emerges that the Education Mayor flunked

And if all this is too demanding of you, Chancellor Walcott, what are you at least doing to bring back civics classes—our tumultuous history of striving to be a self-governing free people? As the late Supreme Court Justice William Brennan put it to me: “How can we bring the Bill of Rights into the lives of students?”

This is happening in an increasing number of classrooms across the country. And I’ve done it—in a few fifth-grade and middle school classrooms over the years in this city—by telling them about the Bill of Rights and what it takes to keep those rights alive.

Meanwhile, coming back to the present bleakness of much of our school system, despite Joel Klein, Michael Bloomberg, and now Dennis Walcott, the “racial gap”in learning achievement continues. And as the city, state, and national economy shrivels, it will go on as there are more “layoffs,”to use the euphemism, not only of teachers but of lowest-paid support staff, including parent coordinators and school aides.

A New York Times October 3 headline lays it out: “School layoffs about to fall heaviest on the poorest and most struggling.”

There will be occasional slowdowns in the firings; but at one point as Santos of the Times reported: “Schools that serve large numbers of poor or struggling students are disproportionately affected, as are schools receiving federal money to improve results years after years of weak performance.”

I regularly read The New York Beacon newspaper ( for diverse black views and analysis of local, state, and national developments. In its October 6–12 issue, Juliet Kaye, reporting on impending layoffs, quoted Assemblyman William Scarborough (under the heading, “Pink slips for 800 school aides will impact communities of color”: “These layoffs threatened the most vulnerable in our city, many of them single mothers with children, and will have a devastating ripple effect on our economy. They must be rolled back.”

They are hardly likely to be rolled back under our incumbent mayor and Department of Education. When you vote for our next mayor, first ask yourself if he or she will be fundamentally different from Bloomberg and will insist that the Department of Education assure that our public school children actually have a future worth having.

But now, I kid you not, dig this invitation to a November 30 New York City dinner honoring, among other “Leaders in 21st Century Education,”none other than Joel Klein. It comes from the Center for Educational Innovation-Public Education Association.

See if you can stop cheering what Klein is being honored for: “He made the New York City School System a national and international model for success. . . . During his tenure, the city’s high school graduation rose to a record 65 percent. . . . Over the past decade, Joel Klein has been one of the most important forces in public education in our country.”

What planet are we on?

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