2010-04-02 / Editorial/Opinion
A Big Win For The Kids
Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Joan Lobis has reminded Mayor Michael Bloomberg and School Chancellor Joel Klein that they are not above the law. She ruled a week ago that the Department of Education could not phase out and then close down 19 schools that the city had declared were “failing” because the city did not follow the rules set out in the governance law that renewed mayoral control over the public school system. The judge’s decision was right on, as anybody following the flawed process well knows. The law requires that the DOE first consult with the various constituencies that make up a school – the school leadership team, parents, the community education council and the UFT. The DOE did none of those things prior to issuing what Lobis called a flawed impact statement telling why it had to close the school. The process also calls for a public meeting where all of the constituents could ask questions of DOE experts who could answer those questions. Instead, the DOE sent Michelle Lloyd-Bay, a superintendent for elementary schools, who continually answered questions with “I don’t know the answer to that question.” While the DOE believed that to be a valid community meeting, nobody else did. Then came the second meeting with DOE and the mayor’s educational priorities panel, during which the panelists took statements, but would not answer questions. Often, those on the panel looked at their Blackberries, texted other people and wandered away. It was clear to the majority of those present at the hearing that the outcome was a done deal. And, in fact Lloyd-Bay said at one point that the deal was done and the best thing the community could do was handle the fact that the school would be closed down. At the city-wide meeting for the final vote, those who wanted to see the 19 schools remain open spoke for eight hours, after which the panel voted to close the schools, with all of the mayor’s appointees (the majority of the panel) voting yes. Now, if the mayor wants to close the schools, he must start the costly six-month process once again, this time following the law. The city’s failure to do so in the first place speaks to the arrogance and brings into question the incompetence of the mayor and his chancellor, who both should have known better. Now, the costly process must begin anew, with the near-perfect outcome that the mayor’s appointees will again guarantee the same outcome. There is a surety that, should the mayor lose his appeal, he will start anew no matter what the cost, because what Bloomberg wants, Bloomberg gets, but it will be a dark day for the students of Rockaway.