2012-08-24 / Columnists

The Rockaway Beat

Charter Schools Succeed Because Bloomberg Wants To Take Down The UFT
Commentary By Howard Schwach

With the opening of school right around the corner I will end my noschool columns sabbatical with a question. Why do charter schools succeed?

After lots of research on the question and some self-examination, I have come up with an answer to that question. Charter schools succeed because Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants them to succeed for two reasons.

The first is that the great majority of the charters have little to do with the union and Bloomberg wants to prove not only that the UFT is unnecessary, but that it’s venal as well.

Secondly, he wants to turn the billions of dollars in federal, state and city money that funds the schools over to his business friends and cronies, the Charter Queen, Eva Moskowitz being only the most obvious example.

Time and time again, Bloomberg and his hand-picked puppet, Chancellor Dennis Walcott, moved public school classes out of the way to make way for Moskowitz’s charters. Then, he pirated assets from those schools in insure that her schools would succeed. Any charter student, who became problematic, either academically or behaviorally, was firmly told that it was time to leave the charter and move back to the public school.

What brought on this column at this time is a meeting that will be held tonight at Beach Channel High School, a hearing on a new charter school that will begin in the building in September of 2013.

It doesn’t matter whether you attend the meeting or not. It’s a done deal. Bloomberg and Walcott are closing BCHS down and want to place new schools in its place. Counting the remnants of BCHS, there are already five schools in the building. The Charter will be the sixth, in the high school’s last year of existence.

The new school will be called The Community Charter School for Success. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it, but what does that mean?

Does it mean the community will have something to do with it? No way. All of the founders are from elsewhere, and only specified students from the community will be admitted into its halls.

I have been involved with education in Rockaway since 1965, when I began teaching at JHS 198. That is nearly 50 years, and I have never heard of any of the people who are involved with the charter school – not one.

Does it mean that every student will succeed? We all know better than that.

The school’s mission statement says the school will “promote excellence through academic rigor and high expectations, by delivering a curriculum that is aligned with the New York State Common Core Learning Standards.”

Isn’t that what every school does? Is that not what the other five schools in the building strive for at the present time?

How is the charter different?

It is different and prepped for success because the mayor wants it that way.

For example, the city will fund the school with enough money so that classes will have no more than 20 students. That is at least 12 students less than it demands in all of its regular public school classes.

Why is the school so special that it can have classes with 20 students while all others have 32 students? That sounds like one of the four questions, but the answer is simple.

The mayor wants it to succeed so that he can rub it in the face of the UFT that charter schools do better than public schools.

The city will also fund a longer school day and a summer program for incoming students.

That takes a lot of money and I can tell you right now from experience that the money will come from other programs in District 27.

When the city decided to close down Beach Channel High School, it ended the highly-successful program that brought a core of students together for all of their subjects. More than a dozen positions were cut. Those positions and the money that went with them were put in some of the mayor’s smaller schools in the same building.

Rooms were taken away from BCHS. The students were restricted from using the gym and the cafeteria at certain times of the day.

It was clear who the favorite son was and who was not.

In the new charter school, every classroom will have sufficient computers for every student. It will have smart boards, iPads and special educational software that the classes in the traditional school never had access to.

Why? So that the kids can succeed in the charter school like they never could in the traditional public school.

Again, lots of money that will be cut from the budgets of the traditional schools, insuring to an extent that they will fail.

The school will also have extra staff not seen in a traditional school – a community affairs development specialist, several guidance and career counselors, parent coordinators and the like.

The school’s application crows that the school will use longer blocks of time to teach literacy – math and reading, something that traditional schools were doing when I was a staff developer in 1998, yet the school makes it sound to parents as if it is new and wonderful.

Smoke and mirrors.

That’s what the mayor has been doing for more than 10 years – telling the big lie often enough and funding the big lie with his billions until people started believing it.

The mayor will continue to take resources away from traditional schools, keep demonizing teachers and their union, keep turning schools over to business interests who only want the money, honey and keep destroying real education for another year, and then he is gone.

Unfortunately, his acolyte, Christine Quinn is the front-runner to keep his policies going for eight more years. That will destroy not only the UFT, but the middle class in our city as well.

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