StudentsFirstNY Parent Organizer and Educator Warn the City Council Committee on Education Against Undermining Education GainsStudentsFirstNY // October 2, 2013
A StudentsFirstNY parent organizer and educator submitted testimony today to the City Council Committee on Education asking the governing body not to support two resolutions that would negatively impact children zoned for low-performing schools by limiting choice and maintaining failing schools.
Tenicka Boyd, StudentsFirstNY’s Director of Organizing and a NYC public school parent, and Nathalie Elivert, a NYC educator for six years and now StudentsFirstNY’s Director of Educator Outreach, wrote in their testimonies that the resolutions calling for the CEC to have power to approve a co-locations and school closures and a moratorium on school closures would devastate the high-quality charter school sector and does nothing to address failing schools that serve low-income, black and Hispanic students.
“My concern is that the efforts contemplated by the Committee would undermine the progress our City’s schools have been making over the past decade,” said Boyd, whose organizers have spoken with more than 300,000 parents who are deeply concerned about the state of education in New York City. “...the evidence is convincing that these two policies, which the proposed resolutions would undermine, have delivered meaningful results for our kids and have helped move our schools in the right direction.”
The testimony is in response to the following resolutions the Committee, which helps to shape educational policies and priorities, is voting:
Res. No. 1263 - Resolution calling upon the New York State Legislature to amend the State Education Law, in relation to mayoral control of the New York City public school system, by requiring that the respective Community Education Council approve a co-location or school closure/phase-out proposal before it may be presented for a vote by the Panel for Educational Policy.
Proposed Res. No. 1395-A - Resolution calling upon the New York City Department of Education to institute a moratorium on school closings and forced "co-locations" in existing schools for a period of at least one year, effective July 1, 2013, in order to study the impact of these policies on all New York City communities, and in particular whether such policies are having a disparate impact on low-income communities, communities of color, disabled students and homeless students.
Under the Bloomberg administration, 126,000 higher-quality seats have been created as 656 mostly smaller, higher-performing schools replaced 164 failing ones. And according to an MDRC study recently released, 70 percent of students graduate from small schools on time compared to 61 percent in large schools.
And New York City has one of the highest performing charter school sectors in the country. Students at the City’s 159 charter schools gain an additional month of learning in reading and five additional months of learning in math compared with traditional public school students. There are 50,000 students on charter school waiting lists for 18,600 seats.
“Replacing a failing school is by no means easy and can cause confusion in the affected community,” said Elivert. “However, in these hard, persistent cases where nibbling around the margins hasn’t worked, the alternative is to force kids into what we know is a failing environment, something I cannot abide.”
Elivert said the Committee cannot ignore the level of dysfunction she witnessed when working at a failing school. “To me, these instances do call for aggressive and immediate intervention. Delay is not an option.”
Boyd said tolerating persistently failing schools and denying parents high quality school choice won’t help kids. “Instead it undermines significantly the role of parents. And it undermines significantly the educational outcomes for Black and Brown students across this city.”
Formed in April 2012, StudentsFirstNY with more than 150,000 members, is New York State’s leading voice for students who depend on public education for the skills they need to succeed, but who are too often failed by a system that puts special interests, rather than the interests of children, first.