Yesterday, four electeds who hope to be mayor in 2013 rallied on the steps of City Hall to criticize the current mayor for his policies of closing failing public schools. And last week, a group of electeds — alongside angry parents and students — rallied around a new report that says Mike Bloomberg’s school closures hurt students and do not solve larger problems in the system.
Yup, it’s rally season, folks. This is the final week of hearings before the Panel for Education Policy votes on proposals to close 25 schools on Feb. 9. (Given that the PEP has never rejected a city proposal and the political theater that unfolded last year, we can guess it’ll be a colorful event).
Timed with a hearing tonight about Legacy High School, near Union Square, students are rallying this afternoon to protest the potential closure of their school.
Students from closing schools, CUNY students, public school parents, and advocates are expected to gather at Union Square at 3 p.m. today to protest the mayor for shutting down schools with high-needs students (A hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Legacy, which is at 34 West 14th St).
A release sent out by the organizers presents some of the alarming stats for Legacy High School for Integrated Studies — 25 percent of incoming students are over-age, compared to 5 percent citywide; students have an incoming academic level of 2.6, compared to 2.94 across the city; 20 percent are in special education, which is twice the average rate; and 83 percent are eligible for free or reduced lunch, in contrast to 74 percent citywide.
Critics of Bloomberg argue that when schools close, the new ones that replace them don’t serve the same percentage of high-needs students. But the DoE says that new schools on the whole serve more black and Hispanic students and those with disabilities. The city also touts its higher graduation rates in schools opened under Bloomberg (though nearly half of the schools slated for closure this time around were opened under the current mayor, critics say).
Runnin’ Scared chatted on the phone this morning with Keyla Marte, a senior at Legacy who is protesting the closures (Students have mobilized on Twitter and Facebook).
“Closing down the school will not solve the problem nor will opening up a new one,” said Marte, who is 17 and lives in East Harlem.
“We already have so little because of the budget cuts…This policy of closing schools is just leaving us out, leaving us behind,” she said, adding that she expects a lot of students will show up to the rally. “We are just so disappointed.”
Critics have come down hard on Bloomberg for poor success rates for minority students — only 13 percent of black and Latino students are currently deemed ready for college, though the DoE argues that it has made significant progress (check out a recent report here, which officials presented at a tense hearing earlier this month).
In response to the rally today, the DoE told us that it is important to not just compare the school’s data with citywide data, but also compare it to schools in similar categories. According to the DoE, Legacy is not only performing worse than schools all over the city, but it is also performing worse than schools that serve a similar makeup of students.
On the school’s 2010-2011 progress report, for example, it had a graduation rate nearly nine points below a peer group average.
(DoE officials also referred us to a statement they sent Runnin’ Scared yesterday that said that “black and Hispanic students since 2002 have seen historic increases in graduation, college-readiness, and college enrollment rates — precisely because the City replaced large, failing high schools with new small schools. We refuse to go back on a strategy that has dramatically changed thousands of lives for the better and given families better options in neighborhoods that had long been neglected”).
If the drama unfolds as expected and the city gets a green light next week to move forward with the closure, Marte said the fight would not stop there.
“This is only the beginning. No matter the vote, this is a situation that is bigger than ourselves,” she said. “We’ll continue fighting no matter what.”