2006-06-16 / Editorial/Opinion

From the Editor's Desk

Nobody Asked Me, But (City Government Edition)

Nobody asked me, but ...

... Once again, the City Council has proven that it knows nothing about anything, but that it is particularly in the dark when it comes to education and the problems facing schools. The latest proof is that the council is about to tie the hands of school officials and give them lots of grief by making it illegal to interfere with a parent's right to have their children reachable by cell phone coming and going to school. You'll no doubt remember that Mayor Mike Bloomberg and School Chancellor Joel Klein have stood steadfast in their ban on cell phones in school - and rightfully so. The council, never missing an issue that might get them votes by pandering to parents, want the kids to be able to take their phones right up to the school door. "If [the school officials] want to take them from the kids at the door, they may do so," said Councilman Lew Fidler, a man who obviously has not been in a school building since he graduated from high school), "But they have to give them back [at the end of the day]. That might sound reasonable, but look at the problems it creates for the school. Are Felder and his co-loonies going to fund a few people whose job it will be to stand around at the beginning and end of the day, collecting and vouchering cell phones in the morning and then, hopefully, giving them back at the end of the day? Who will transport the kids home when they miss their bus because they have to stand on line each day for more than a half-hour to retrieve their cell phone? Who will pay the freight when a cell phone is lost or damaged in the process? What kind of "receipt" will be provided when the cell phone is collected? How does the school know that the receipt is not stolen or misappropriated when they return the phone to its "owner" at the end of the day? How many hours of valuable administrative time that would be better used in addressing kids will be wasted on handling cell phones and the problems they cause? Give it up, guys. Cell phones have no place in school and the schools do not have the resources to collect and then return several hundred cell phones each day.

... One more City Council foolishness before I move on. Manhattan Councilwoman Rosie Mendez is pushing a law that would keep the circus from showcasing elephants, zebras and big cats when it comes to New York City. Mendez charges that the exotic circus animals are abused and belong in the wild, not in captivity. If passed, her bill would effectively keep the Ringling Brothers Circus from coming to the city, an expert said.

...It's amazing how things you say come back to haunt you. In July of 1999, Democratic District Leader Lew Simon, writing in his Wave column, said that Irving Matos, who owned Metro Force Security in Far Rockaway, was a "great community employer." He said that Matos encourages community youth by holding outreach seminars on law enforcement and legal issues." Simon praised Matos as a role model for kids. Matos was killed with a shot to his head in 2006. Recently, a Brooklyn man names Steven Sakai was arrested for the murder and beating of three men outside a bar in which he was the bouncer. DNA proved that Sakai also killed Matos in his Brooklyn home. Why? Cops say that Sakai and Matos worked together at a Sunset Park topless bar named "Sweet Cherry," where the two had a sideline of steering customers to local prostitutes. Police conjecture that Sakai shot Matos in the head because he wanted the prostitution business all to himself. Way to go, Lew.

... Buried in city legislation to rename 58 streets are 45 names who Mayor Bloomberg says, "represent individuals who are being honored for their lifetime accomplishment." Bloomberg said in his enabling legislation that he could not describe the reason that each individual was being honored, but that "each Council Member who submitted a name presented a detailed justification for this honor." Among those so honored were Monsignor William Burke, the long-time pastor and bandmaster at St. Camillus Church and Goldie Maple, the school activist who helped minority children to get the education they deserved. Those two local honors are well deserved. The third local to be honored, however, is more troubling. Now, I like City Councilman James Sanders. We have had a long history of contention and agreement, but naming a street for his mother (Lois Sanders Drive) cheapens the process that names streets for the heroes of 9/11 and long-time community icons.

... Councilman Sanders has joined in another bill that will make it more difficult for business and developers to operate in New York City. It's called the "Emerging Business Enterprise Intro" or EBE for short. It sets up a "race and gender neutral classification" for business owned by individuals who have "experienced the burden of institutionalized social and economic disadvantage." If you think that is race and gender neutral, you haven't been paying attention. In order to qualify as an EBE, businesses must show through concrete evidence that they have experienced social and economic disadvantage, such as the lack of access to credit. The bill establishes a citywide goal for EBE participation in contracts under $1 million.

...The No Child Left Behind Law (NCLB) mandates access to tutoring for students in "failing schools." A new study shows that more than one-third of all of the New York City students who are offered tutoring under NCLB actually take advantage of the program. Some city schools show a tutoring drop-out rate of more than 60 percent. This statistic shows once again that the old saw, "all children can learn," is not true. There are, in fact, children who cannot learn because of a physical or psychological disability and there are those who do not want to learn. The 60 percent drop-out rate of those who need remediation and turoring indicates to me that the group who do not want to learn is far larger than even I believed. After 33 years of teaching, most of it in Rockaway schools, I believe fully that 45 percent of the students in city schools are getting the best education in the world. Another 15 percent need some motivation to become interested learners and to value education. The remaining 40 percent are not going to learn much no matter what the system does because they have no interest.

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