Time For Moratorium On Closing Schools
The opening salvos by the Democratic candidates who want to replace Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2013 have been fired and the great majority of them have moved away from the mayor on the issue of public education and specifically on the issue of closing schools perceived as failing by the current administration. Speaking at an educational forum, three of those candidates, William Thompson (a former Board of Education president), Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, offered their opinion that schools should only be closed as a last resort. The Bloomberg administration uses it as a first resort or as a pretext to find more room for its favored charter school operators. The three agreed that they favored mayoral control, but said that Bloomberg had wielded that power almost cavalierly by closing schools with little input from parents or school staff. We agree. Thompson called for a one-year moratorium on school closings, warning of rumors that Bloomberg and his hand-picked chancellor will close dozens of schools “rather than giving them a chance to improve.” He said that the city did a better job of supporting schools under the Board of Education, and he is right. This year alone, the Panel for Educational Policy, a board controlled completely by the mayor through his appointees to the panel, has approved 26 school closings. On April 26, it will vote to close 23 more. The issue is not in doubt. The panel has never overturned the chancellor’s decision to close a school. Never! The “rumor” that the city will close 75 more “failing” schools in 2013, the last year of the mayor’s imperious reign, is, unfortunately, probably too close to the truth. Bloomberg said when he took over that he wanted the schools to be his legacy, his defining moment. Unfortunately for him, his failure with the schools, his demonizing of the public school staff and his failure to improve education will most likely be his legacy – a highly negative legacy and historians are already putting him in the class with Jimmy Walker, Ed Koch and David Dinkins as the worst mayors in New York City history. He should not be allowed to do further damage. A year’s moratorium on closing schools is a good idea and should be addressed by the state legislature. It is still not too late to save some schools from the Bloomberg meat axe.