City Hall rally today protesting the epidemic of school closings and DOE's broken promises to Jamaica HS

There was a rally today, organized by the Coalition for Educational Justice, protesting against the mayor's wrecking ball policies and school closings.  Speakers included NYC Comptroller Liu, Public Advocate De Blasio, Manhattan Borough President Stringer, former NYC Comptroller Thompson, parents and students from the closing schools, Advocates for Children, and many others... Here is my speech; video will be posted soon..  

For more on why parents and community members throughout the country strongly oppose the epidemic of school closings, and distrust the top-down "solutions" imposed by them from above, this excellent Public Agenda survey "What's Trust Got to Do With It?"

Theodore Roosevelt, Adlai Stevenson, John Jay, Martin Luther King Jr.
John F. Kennedy, John Dewey, Paul Robeson, Louis Brandeis, Thomas Jefferson.
Norman Thomas, Roberto Clemente, Jane Addams, Alfred E. Smith.
What do these names have in common? These are some of the greatest heroes in American history, and sadly, they are also the names of schools that Michael Bloomberg has already closed or plans to close in the future.
What will be the fate of the students at the more than 50 schools that are now on the chopping block?  A spike in the dropout rate, students discharged to GED programs, and/or graduated with a meaningless HS diploma, by means of substandard credit recovery programs, if past history is any guide.
Of course the DOE will promise otherwise, but their promises are worthless.
I have here a letter from the PTA president and the chapter chair of Jamaica HS, to whose students DOE made all sorts of promises in the Educational Impact Statement after deciding to phase the school out.
The DOE promised that students already enrolled in Jamaica in its various programs would continue to have access to the academic classes they need to complete their program requirements.
Yet as the letter points out, students in the finance, computer and pre-engineering programs no longer have access to many of the classes that are required to complete their programs.
There are no longer any honors courses at any level or in any subject at the school.  The DOE promised that the students could take electives at the other schools in the building but this has not occurred.
The DOE promised online coursework, which never happened.  In fact, some of the school’s computers are so old as to be obsolete. 
There is no longer a librarian in the building, and so there is no access to the library; and social studies courses are taught by teachers who do not have the certification in this subject.
The DOE promised that “As the school becomes smaller, students would receive more individualized attention through graduation to ensure they are receiving the support they need to succeed.  Students would also be encouraged to meet with their guidance counselor to discuss all of their options.”  Yet two of the three guidance counselors were excessed & there is only one guidance counselor with over 600 students.  Class sizes are have grown even larger; with science, math and English classes at 30 or more.  As the letter says, 
“It is clear to anyone who examines the EIS and then looks at the reality of what is occurring at this school that these students are not being given the supports that the DOE promised, and is their right to receive. Their ability to go onto college and/or be ready for a career has been seriously compromised. … The DOE has betrayed the hopes and dreams of Jamaica students, and gone back on their promises.”
Truly, this administration has acted as a wrecking ball on our schools, uncaring, reckless and destructive. And closing schools with this much history behind them is tearing out the heart of communities -- who cherish their schools even as they are struggling as a result of budget cuts, increased class sizes, overcrowding and the elimination of any support from DOE.
There is also a huge amount of hypocrisy behind all this.  I don’t understand how anyone can claim they care about teacher quality and then impose a quota that demands that 50% of all teachers be fired from  a struggling school.  What kind of quality would that ensure? 
There is also tremendous hypocrisy from an administration that prattles on about “parent choice” whenever it wants to push a new charter school into an already overcrowded building; but when it comes to the protests of thousands of parents who ask not to close their children’s school, or the hundreds of thousands of parents who ask them to reduce class size as the top priority on the DOE’s own surveys, they turn a deaf ear. 
In fact, the mayor treats parents with the utmost contempt, and says that we just don’t understand the value of a good education. 
We do understand this well, Mr. Mayor, and that’s why we know that you have utterly failed over the last decade in providing our kids with the schools they need and deserve.
It is time, no,  it is long past time, that we take back our public schools from this megalomaniac billionaire, and give them back to the parents, students, teachers, and community members – who want them strengthened rather than destroyed.
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