Will Mayor Ray Kelly Watch Over Us?


Our all-seeing police commissioner denies that he desires to succeed his biggest fan, Michael Bloomberg. But an April 23 New York Post report, “GOP Greases Wheels for Mayor Run by Ray,” tells a more believable story: “Top city and state Republicans, backed by some of Manhattan’s wealthiest financiers” are happily doing the groundwork for a Kelly campaign.

And dig this: “Ray knows what’s going on.” He ain’t stopping it.

Joining the parade the next day, a Daily News front page story: “Run, Ray, Run!” reported a 77 percent approval rating and a 63 percent favorability rating for the legendary Kelly—though less in certain stop-and-frisked neighborhoods.

Assuming, as I do, that Kelly can set aside helping out the CIA in protecting us from shadowy terrorists long enough to make a run, I have an initial question for him about his fitness for overseeing a controversial part of his new leadership responsibilities—the city’s school system.

In previous columns here, I have referred to the penetrating education research by the Massachusetts-based Schott Foundation. I owe this current grim news from the foundation to the valuable daily reporting on our public schools by, as on April 17: The Schott Foundation documents that this city’s “schools systematically shortchanged poor students and students of color” through “redlining”—a term born in the 1960s for various forms of discrimination on resources and support for certain neighborhoods.

Guess in which neighborhoods that’s happening, Mr. Kelly? In his foreword to this report, New York University professor Pedro Noguera explains: “While the term ‘redlining’ might seem strong given that it implies a deliberate attempt to deny certain communities access to educational opportunities, this report will show that evidence of blatant disparities amount to Apartheid-like separations that have been accepted in New York far too long. Rather than being angered by the language, my hope is that readers of this report will be outraged by the fact that education in New York City is more likely to reproduce and reinforce existing patterns of inequality than to serve as a pathway to opportunity.”

This is what I and other Voice education reporters have been demonstrating for years. Before I go further into specifics of the Schott report, I am bound to place Ray Kelly in the center of an “Apartheid-like separation” of students in our schools that I have frequently illustrated: the arrests and sometimes beatings for alleged misconduct of black and Latino students by Ray Kelly–trained School Safety Agents. Education Mayor Bloomberg and much-lauded former schools Chancellor Joel Klein never said one word about this. But many furious parents have—and do.

As I reported here on February 16, 2010: “For the first time in its history, New York City is being sued in federal court on behalf of all its public school students. In a lawsuit charging systemic police abuse, the defendants in the case filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union . . . are Mayor Mike Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly.”

The lawsuit shows that Educator Kelly taught many students to fear the police.

Getting back to what the Schott report calls “Zip Code Education,” it tells us and whoever is the next mayor that in our public schools “a student’s educational outcomes . . . are statistically more determined by where he or she lives than their abilities. . . . Community school districts with no schools among the top set of schools . . . are in the poorest neighborhoods of Harlem, the South Bronx, and central Brooklyn.”

I would make exceptions, however, for certain charter schools in unequal neighborhoods run by Eva Moskowitz. When there are openings in these schools, or in new ones directed by Moskowitz, long lines of parents appear to get their kids selected.

Moreover, Schott notes that in the separate and unequal schools in those neighborhoods, “black and Hispanic students have, on average, less experienced and educated teachers, resulting in lower total educational expenditures in some poor districts because teacher salaries total smaller amounts.”

I interrupt to point out that some of these lower salaries may be due to newer teachers there, who refuse to stereotype students by their race, ethnicity, and parents’ incomes. Yet when budget cuts lay off teachers, the teachers’ unions insist that those with longer tenure must remain rather than more recently hired teachers, who focus more on individual students.

What would your rule be, Mayor Kelly, on teacher seniority in those circumstances?

While Mayor Bloomberg goes on to trumpet his gold-star success in raising academic standards of our public schools, Schott provides the next mayor with a vital challenge to change the following lifetime prospects of students in Bloomberg’s inferior neighborhood schools: “Black and Hispanic students are far less frequently screened for gifted programs—a charge that gained another year’s evidence when the city revealed (recently) that several low-income districts again had so few students pass a screening test that gifted programs would not open there.” Goodbye, college.

That bother you, Ray Kelly? What are your plans for these shut-out students and also undertaught kids with special needs and English-language learners?

Oh, Mr. Commissioner, what about the army of School Safety Agents in largely black and Latino public schools? In view of your record in having made you a defendant in a New York Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against police abusers of kids, what kind of a police commissioner would Mayor Kelly put in to replace yourself? A mirror image?

Please do answer that question during your campaign to watch over all of us, including the students who have learned to recoil at cops.

On another crucial educational neglect of New York’s and other students across the country, have you given any thought, Mr. Kelly, to meaningfully restoring civics classes in our public schools? I have reported here about a series of studies on how little many American students know about why they are Americans—and what it keeps taking to hold onto and defend our freedom of speech and personal privacy against governments—national and local—who ignore the Constitution’s essential separation of powers.

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor now devotes most of her time reminding all Americans, especially public school educators, that: “These students will inherit our democracy, and we must empower them to preserve it. Knowledge of our system of government is not handed down through the gene pool. The habits of citizenship must be learned, and our public schools were founded to educate students for democratic participation.

“The problem is we have neglected civic education for the past several decades, and the results are predictably dismal.”

Mr. Kelly, in view of what I have reported about your tenure as police commissioner, including your arrant suspension of much of the Bill of Rights—you ever read them?—can you give me any reason not to doubt that you give one damn about enabling our students to become knowledgeable, active citizens able to defend ourselves against our murderous enemies without forfeiting who we are?

All these questions, and more to come in future columns, will be addressed to the other candidates for mayor, very much including whether they believe our knowledge of government is handed down through the gene pool. And what they think of Mayor Ray Kelly as an inspirer of New York City students to become knowledgeable defenders of our American liberties.