2009-02-20 / Columnists

School Scope

Politics is: A: Local B: Global C: Sleazy D: All of the Above

Norman Scott Norman Scott They say all politics is local. Or maybe in the flat world of Thomas Friedman and worldwide financial meltdowns, all politics is really global. Or both.

Politics, both global and local comes together in next week's election for the vacant City Council seat in Rockaway, Howard Beach and South Ozone Park. That the issue of education has been put on the table makes it all the more delicious. First, some facts.

Democratic District Leader Geraldine M. Chapey is running against Lew Simon and newcomer Glenn DiResto, amongst others. A DiResto ad in last week's Wave charged Chapey with underhanded tactics in challenging his petitions on a minor technicality, causing him to be tied up in Supreme Court and denying him public campaign funding. DiResto claims Chapey received $55,000 of these funds. He has since been restored to the ballot and The Wave is endorsing him, but his supporters are livid at Chapey's tactics, as evidenced by a number of letters to The Wave ("Chapey's Disgusting Tactics"). Hey, haven't I been telling you all politics, global or local, is sleazy? And so are most politicians. But that's an article for another time.

Then there is the little matter of Chapey's million-dollar taxpayer subsidized bus service and exactly how the public money is used. Add to that the fact that Chapey refused several times in two candidate forums to tell how the money is spent. (I'll leave those details for you to read elsewhere in The Wave.) Sleaze squared.

Now, onto the education connection. Chapey's mom, Geraldine D. Chapey, has been on the NY State Board of Regents since 1998. How did she get that seat? Wave editor Howie Schwach reports that when Floyd Flake gave up his congressional seat and wanted his assistant Greg Meeks to replace him, Chapey junior held the deciding vote and traded it in favor of Meeks in exchange for the Regent seat for her mom. Rudy Blagojevich, where are you when we need you? Sleaze to the third power.

Ah, it doesn't stop there. Let's look at the role Chapey the elder and the rest of the Regents have played in enabling the Michael Bloomberg/Joel Klein assault on the school system, part of the nationwide attack on urban public school systems and the rights of parents and community to make basic choices as to who will run their schools. Oh yes, and the focus on blaming teachers for all the failures of the system with the consequent assault on basic union rights.

Chapey senior and her buddies gave Joel Klein the lawyer his waiver to be chancellor and have supported BloomKlein in just about every scheme they have foisted on the public, from allowing the manipulation of tests that show phony results to the just as bogus graduation rates where teachers joke about drive-by diplomas - just leave your car window open as you drive by the school and they'll toss it in. And how about the worm-ridden state education department headed by Richard Mills, one of the worst commissioners in the nation, all supervised by the Regents? Chapey and her buddies at the Regents make basic decisions about approving charter schools.

Enter charter schools

Remember those old movies about the opening of the west where the settlers lined up behind a rope and made a mad dash to claim their land when the rope was dropped? Reminds me of how the charter school movement has led to the movement of public school buildings into the hands of private interests. That is the essence of the charter school movement where most schools are non-union and very unregulated. Think: Real Estate scam. Just in the last few weeks, we have heard of the announced closings of large high schools Brandeis (upper West Side) and Bayard Rustin (Chelsea) and the smaller Health Professionals (Gramercy Park). Guess in whose hands these massive buildings built and maintained with public funding, all in Toney neighborhoods, will end up?

Add closing Catholic schools into the mix

Wait, we're not done yet. With the announced closing of many Catholic schools - to a great extent because the free charter schools have drained away so many students - Mayor Bloomberg has offered to come to their rescue by turning them into charters.

Now, I spent years working in Williamsburg and saw how parochial school interests - in that case the Hasidic community - glommed onto as much public money as they could. (At one point, $7 million just went up in smoke, a crime for which no one spent one day in jail.) They even managed to set up a bi-lingual Yiddish school, claiming it was open to all students. Somehow, they were not inundated by Black and Hispanic kids. Believe me, it won't be long before every denomination will seek to turn their religious schools into charters.

Now mind you, the NYC public schools are overflowing and could certainly use the often large buildings the Catholic schools occupy - remember all those arguments that there is not enough room to reduce class sizes in NYC schools to a limit that comes close to the suburbs. But instead of trying to lease these buildings or buy them outright, Bloomberg wants to turn them over to private interests. Maybe even the church itself. Mr. Archbishop, tear down that cross - or don't tear it down at all. Just cover it up from 8-4. There is a plan afoot for the Church to create a non-profit so they can continue to manage the schools, though, by law, no religious instruction could be offered. So, what exactly is the Church's purpose in trying to manage these schools?

Just as I'm sitting down to write this column, Lorri Giovinco-Harte, NY Education Examiner, sends this piece she wrote on the web, based on a February 17 Daily News article. Bishop's questionable 'donation' made to daughter of woman who assists in the approval of charters: Just one month before Mayor Mike Bloomberg made the announcement that some city Catholic schools would be converted to charters, Brooklyn/Queens Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio made his first ever donation to a political candidate - a political candidate whose mother is involved in the approval of charter schools. Bishop DiMarzio donated the money to Queens candidate, Geraldine M. Chapey, whose mother is a member of the Board of Regents; the governing body which approves the creation of charter schools in New York.

The Bishop dismissed accusations that there was a connection between the donation and the subsequent announcement that several struggling Catholic schools would be converted to charters.

The $250 is minor, but it is matched by over $500 in taxpayer money.

The Daily News quoted DiResto (I guess religion has a place in politics now), Simon (I've never seen the church speak out on a candidate before) and Chapey (The bishop is a citizen, and he's participating in the democratic process.)

She said there was no quid quo pro for her mother to ease the way for the funneling of massive amounts of public money into the hands of the archdiocese.

Is Chapey following the same script Illinois Senator Roland Burris is using on denying he made a deal with impeached Governor Rudy B who tried to sell the Obama seat? Sleaze to the - sorry, I've lost track.

Gee, politics really is global.

Norm writes more of this balderdash at his blog: http://ednotesonline.blogspot. com/ Email him at: normsco@- gmail.com

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