2003-03-08 / Editorial/Opinion

Chancellor Can’t Have It Both Ways

Chancellor Can’t Have It Both Ways

There seems to be a problem involved with the "No Child Left Behind" law that is now being administered by Matt Bromme in the name of the school chancellor. The law clearly states that children in "failing" schools have the absolute right to transfer to "successful" schools. For Rockaway, that means students in each of the eight failing schools on the peninsula have the right to transfer to the one successful school – PS 114 in Belle Harbor. Surely, the federal government and the chancellor understand that PS 114 is presently overutilized and not in a position to take neighborhood students, nevertheless those coming from all over the peninsula. It is clear that they know, but it is not clear whether or not they care. The feds have said that they will not accept overcrowding as an excuse for keeping children from transferring. "School districts can’t use capacity as an excuse to deny public school choice," a spokesperson for the Department of Education said recently. Parents at those successful schools such as PS 114 are nervous that their school will be inundated in September with transfers from other parts of the peninsula. They worry about class size and about the fact that bringing children with poor reading scores to the school would soon lower the scores that put them on the list in the first place. A large group of parents from PS 114 brought those fears to Kathleen Cashin, the new regional superintendent for Rockaway’s sch-ools. She did not have an answer that would soothe their fears. The feds also do little to ally those fears. "Those fears are outrageous," U.S. Education Undersecretary Eugene Hickock told reporters. "This is not about how good a school looks, it’s about how kids are doing." The feds have gone so far as to intimate that kids from failing schools who cannot transfer to a successful school should be allowed to attend private schools at taxpayer expense. Can you imagine the cost of that program? Perhaps that is the key to this whole plan and the reason for the law. Follow the bouncing ball: No place to transfer? Go to private school at taxpayer expense. Read "private" as "paroc-hial" and you have instant vouchers. For his part, Chancellor Klein talks out of both sides of his mouth. On one hand, he says that he will comply with the federal law. On the other, he says, "We’re not going to jeopardize good schools by overcrowding them." He can’t have it both ways.

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