Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Regulation of the Chancellor/ We Told You So!

No really, we told them so!

Over the last year parents and teachers have detailed the numerous and egregious errors with the Department of Education’s so-called policy and procedures in regards to co-locations. We carefully outlined the flaws as we advocated for our schools in two appeals filed by P.S. 15 parents with Advocates for Children to the State Education Commissioner. We revealed how the New York City Department of Education violates their own policies and bylaws as they champion free space for charter schools at the expense of public schools throughout the city. Some examples include:
1. Educational Impact Statements that declare “no impact” The DOE has been publishing practically identical and weakly written Educational Impact Statements for every school affected by co-location that declares, in every case, the there is enough room for both schools in the building.
2. Mathematically Challenged Instructional Footprints that disregard special education services and ESL services. The information in the EIS is, of course, based on an also flawed “Instructional Footprint” that declares the amount of space schools and their services deserve.
3. Not properly notifying the public of the changes to their school. The date/time and place for public hearings about co-locations is buried on the DOE’s website, further isolating affected families who are unable to regularly access a computer (as if checking the DOE website is first on anyone’s list.)


And guess what changes are being proposed? Yes…

The quotes below come directly from the proposed changes to the regulation. These proposed changes are strikingly similar to every phone call, email, letter, and statement we shared at public hearings. When parents, teachers, advocates, and local policy makers outlined these flaws we were ignored, denied, and in many cases insulted by Department of Education staff. Students at P.S. 15 and schools all over the city suffered from the way co-locations have been occurring throughout this city and we continue to suffer. Many public school communities watched as the charter school in their building was completely renovated, while their school did not even get its yearly coat of paint. Each year, teachers packed their entire classrooms up to move, to make room for the charter school as the “Footprint” allocated more space. It was the parents and community members who helped publicize the public hearings, using their own money for fliers and copies. To top it all off, our appeal was overturned, we were told we are wrong!
Meanwhile, it is clear that the work we have done has indeed brought about changes, well “proposed” changes to the way the DOE does its business. However, we must keep an eye out for shenanigans, as we know how keen this department is at finding loopholes, exceptions, and new ways to exploit laws, policies and procedures, even ones they themselves write!

Here are some of the proposed changes. Does anything look familiar to you?

#1: Changes to the Educational Impact Statements:
“guides for use in creating Educational Impact Statements (EIS) are added; EIS filing requirements are clarified and provide that the EIS must be posted online and filed in hard copy with the PEP, affected CECs, community boards, superintendents, SLTs, and certain other bodies, as applicable, with hard copies available at affected schools.

#2 Changes to the Instructional Footprint:

“It should be noted that the Citywide Instructional Footprint (the “Footprint”) is in the process of being revised. Such revisions include modifications to the definition of a full size classroom to align the Footprint with the Enrollment Capacity Utilization Report (the “Blue Book”). Certain upward adjustments to room allocations will also be made. The revised Footprint will be made publicly available shortly.”

#3 Changes to the way the public school buildings have been treated:

“…any capital improvements or facilities upgrades made to accommodate charter schools in DOE buildings in excess of $5,000 must be matched by improvements or upgrades of an equal amount for all DOE schools in the same building; a process by which charter schools must apply for Chancellor’s permission to perform capital improvements or facilities upgrades to charter school space in DOE buildings is established; and the statutory right to appeal charter school co-locations and Building Usage Plans to the Commissioner of Education is added.”

click here to read the entire document.

Address all questions and/or comments to:

Name: Gentian Falstrom
Office: Division of Portfolio Planning
Address: 52 Chambers Street
Email: RegulationA-190@schools.nyc.gov
Phone: (212) 374-2471

Date, time and place of the PEP meeting at which the Board will vote on the proposed item under consideration:

October 7, 2010
6:00 p.m.
New World High School
921 E. 228th Street
Bronx, NY

Monday, August 16, 2010

Discriminatory and Destructive Precedents Set by PS 15 and PS 188/94 State Education Commissioner Appeals

Over the last week we have heard and seen tremendous outrage over Chancellor Klein’s evoking of emergency powers, disregarding Commissioner Steiner’s ruling in the PS 188/94 appeals case. Local and State politicians have had no fear, and have minced no words, making clear their opposition to Klein’s abuse of power in evoking an emergency clause to allow Girls Prep Charter to stay in the PS 188 building despite the impact on the children with Autism at the school. Klein has recently backed down from this position, now stating he will not use emergency powers, but rather look for an alternate place, for at least a year, for Girls Prep Charter School. In a press statement the DOE continues to claim that there is more than enough room in the PS 188/94 building and maintains not a single child with special needs will be displaced. The DOE’s lack of understanding for and consideration of children with special needs continues to be astounding. For both schools, and for potential co-location sites across the city, what has been lost in the fray over these process and power positions, are the destructive and discriminatory precedents set in Steiner’s decision to dismiss the PS 15 appeals case completely, and his ignoring of the merits in the PS 188/94 case he supported.

Both appeals targeted two distinct areas of complaint. First, that the DOE did not follow proper procedures as dictated by the change in school utilization portion of the Mayoral Control Law, particularly in terms of meeting the standard and intention of the law regarding the Educational Impact Statements, which was further defined by the Mulgrew decision. Secondly, both appeals made substantive complaints, detailing how the DOE made arbitrary decisions when it came to building and space utilization and allocations; largely ignoring the needs and legal mandates of students receiving special education services as well as disregarding the space needs of all students.

The DOE was required to respond to the complaints laid out in the parents’ appeals, and their claims were shocking. In their responses the DOE charged that even though the law requires outreach efforts to maximize public notification and input, they are not required to provide Educational Impact Statements to parents other than through the internet, email and principal notification. Steiner’s agreement with these claims now limits the DOE’s burden to notify the public. Considering many of these co-locations are targeted in isolated, lower socio-economic, under resourced neighborhoods, the majority of parents and community members will not be notified of potential co-locations and the impact on their children, as was the case in the PS 15 community.

Further, regarding Education Impact Statements, the DOE claimed they were not required to specifically outline a space plan for the co-located schools or detail the impact specifically. Steiner agreed with this logic citing the PS 15 EIS stated there may be some impact on enrichment programs and non-mandated services, but that the DOE felt there was more than enough space in the building and that a space plan would be created later with the schools’ building council. To be clear, Stiener used a document of questionable validity to justify his ruling. For this and many other reasons, these justifications are unacceptable. This decision flies in the face of the Mulgrew decision and permits the DOE to provide vague and self-serving assessments and justification of school space and impact. Under this decision, Educational Impact Statements must only state the DOE’s assessment of available space in the building (based on faulty utilization and instructional footprint allocations) and claim that there is enough. They are not accountable for in any way explaining where affected programs will go. For PS 15 this has meant the loss of a science lab, special education office, and several classrooms forcing multiple out-of-classroom providers (mandated and non-mandated) to share space, often at the expense of student privacy and optimal learning conditions. It has meant loss of enrichment and the down-scaling of intervention programs because there are no rooms in the building that are not programmed throughout the day, including the cafeteria, gym, and auditorium. None of these specifics were required to be included, according to the DOE and Steiner, in the EIS, and apparently none of these losses are considered significant enough to define the DOE’s judgment as arbitrary. One wonders if Steiner, Bloomberg, or Klein would have allowed these impacts on their own children.

Among the litany of alarming assertions by the DOE, upheld by Steiner, none is more striking than the claim that designated space is not required for special education related services and that stairwells and hallways are perfectly acceptable spaces for students to receive related services. Steiner did not even address the substantive issues regarding these claims in his decision. His only attempt to address the parents’ challenging the merits of the DOE’s co-location proposal was to say that he, “…could not conclude that the (DOE’s) decision was arbitrary…(because the) DOE denies the assertions and contends…the building can support both schools.” For students at PS 15 this will mean speech in the backs of classrooms or in shared classrooms and physical therapy, occupational therapy, vision and hearing therapy in hallways, stairwells, and corners contrary to the students’ IEP mandates. Is this putting Children First, or Charters First?

In the DOE’s appeal response they state, “Sharing space is central to New York City’s strategy for school improvement.” This “strategy” sets up a competition for scarce space and resources where special education students will apparently be on the losing end. As we have seen in multiple co-location proposals, PS 188/94 included, special education children can simply be moved and shuffled around to benefit charter school access to public school buildings. It begs the question: what was the intention of the state law allowing charters access to public school space for lease? It is doubtful the intention was to take utilized space away from existing public school children in order to provide essentially free space and significant start up cost savings to charter schools.

The claims by the DOE in both appeals cases, and the written decisions by Steiner, leaves parents, and teachers, at odds with the DOE, while they try to advocate for the services their children need and deserve. Destructive and discriminatory precedents have now been set by these appeals: the DOE can engage in a public hearing process where no one is actually heard and meaningful consideration is not given. In the PS 15 case alone, there were over 1,700 written and oral comments given opposing the continued co-location in the building, contrast that with less than 200 in favor of the proposal, yet the proposal was approved and upheld with no regard for the true impact on PS 15 students, particularly the special education population at the school which makes up over 30% of the student body. The precedent has been set that no significant attempt to notify the school community is required, nor is any consideration for the delivery methods that would best serve the community in question. The precedent has been set that Educational Impact Statements need only explain what may be affected in a school due to a co-location with a claim by the DOE that surely, there is enough space no matter what the students, teachers, parents, or the numbers show. The precedent has been set that space need not be allocated for special education services and children can get these services in hallways, stairwells, and in the backs of classrooms regardless of health and safety hazards or what would be the optimal learning conditions for the child as dictated by their IEP. The precedent has been set that space for intervention and enrichment programs, the kinds of programs that every child deserves, do not require allocated space.

Much must be done as a result of these appeals. Policymakers on the local and state level must improve legislation regarding change in school utilization laws and the law that allows charters access to public school buildings. Changes must be made to the DOE’s bluebook utilization formula and instructional footprint to include proper space allocations for our children, particularly children with special needs. Ultimately however, the only truly meaningful policy decision to protect public education and our children will be the termination of mayoral control. Unfortunately, our politicians have not had the courage to stand up to Bloomberg and the wealthy forces behind the education deform movement and take any meaningful action, instead they have lined their coffers with hedge fund and charter school money and allow these discriminatory practices and policies to continue at the expense of our children.

Parents and teachers must unite and fight the forces that seek to dismantle public education, which is happening at the expense of our neediest and most vulnerable children. Make no mistake, what has taken place at PS 15 and at PS 188/94 will now be precedent for far reaching education policy in this city. With the charter school cap lifted, we will see a growing number of co-locations and we will continue to live in an era of governance by lawlessness, where disfunctionality and discrimination are common place, where charters and profiteers come first instead of our children and where mismanagement and neglect of real public schools become the hallmark of this Mayor’s education reform agenda.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mayoral Control is Governance By Lawlessness… It is Time to Put an End to the Bloomberg-Klein Ed Deform Agenda!

The PS 188/94 and PS 15 recent appeals to the State Education Commissioner prove once again that Mayoral Control amounts to nothing more than governance by lawsuit, a construct where parents, students, and teachers will find themselves at a great disadvantage, and will almost always lose, when seeking what is best for the public education of our youth.

Commissioner David Steiner’s decisions in both cases, the Department of Education’s responses in both cases, and the outrageous actions of Klein evoking ‘emergency powers’ in the one of Steiner's findings set dangerous and destructive precedents for our schools and students when it comes to school and space utilization and allocation.

As a result of Steiner’s decision and the responses and actions of the DOE:

· Space allocations are not required for related services for special needs students or for ELL students.
· Stairwells and Hallways are perfectly acceptable spaces for students to receive educational services.
· Negative impacts on existing public school students, specifically removing space for enrichment, intervention, and other mandated and non-mandated services to benefit a charter school, is perfectly acceptable.
· Educational Impact statements do not have to be provided to parents in paper form or through the mail. Notification to families and communities need only be made through the internet or through the school’s principal with no additional resources provided by the DOE.
· Educational impact statements do not have to specifically identify the impacts or losses on students in terms of space or programming due to a co-location.
· Educational impact statements do not have to show how space will be allocated; a space plan can be completed after the co-location is approved.
· Providing opportunities for hearings and public input where no one is actually heard or considered meets the standard of the law.
· When a legal decision is made that favors parents, students, and teachers, the DOE will find a way to get around it.

Mayoral Control is absolute power that corrupts absolutely. It is a license to push destructive and discriminatory policies touted by this Mayor and Chancellor, which will be rubberstamped by a PEP whose majority is selected by the Mayor himself and given the directive to "serve at his pleasure". When in the rare case, the Administration is legally challenged on a issue, there is a loophole to declare emergencies in order to override whatever decision displeases the Chancellor. This is not putting Children First, as their self-heralded initiative claims, this is putting ideology first, an ideology rooted in free-market principles that further reinforce the roles of privilege and subordination in our country and pervert our public education system, the pillar of our democracy. Local and State legislators must take action to end this corrupt governance system and put legislation in place and advocate for policies that protect public schools and our neediest and most vulnerable children.

Join Grassroots Education Movement in the Struggle to Protect and Preserve Public Education! Check in this week for further video and analysis regarding the DOE’s outrageous actions and claims regarding co-locations @ ednotesonline.blogspot.com, capeducation@blogspot.com and grassrootseducationmovement@blogspot.com

Want to create a community-based advocacy group in your school? Contact capeducation@gmail.com for an advocacy toolkit and information on GEM’s school-based organizing committee.

Together we can stop the dysfunctional and discriminatory education policies of Bloomberg and Klein!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Children First?

As many of you know, the State Commissioner recently voted to halt expansion of Girl's Prep Charter School within the P.S. 188M building, as its expansion will negatively impact not only P.S. 188, but will take way classrooms from students of P.S. 94M a district 75 school housed in the same building serving students with autism. On the same docket was a ruling to allow PAVE Academy to continue expanding within P.S. 15K in Red Hook. There are more details to come on that nonsense but this post is about P.S. 188, M.S. 94 and how absolute power (Mayoral Control) corrupts, absolutely!

As stated above, New York State Education Department Commissioner Steiner ruled in favor of halting the expansion of Girl's Prep Charter School within P.S. 188-- a building that already shares space with M.S. 94, a unique school, and the only one in the district that serves students with autism. Chancellor Klein Mr. "Children First" himself has decided to void this decision, as the city's laws provide him this power, and the students of M.S. 94 will be relocated to provide more room for Girl's Prep Charter School. Shocked? Surprised? Of course not, but if you are disgusted like the rest of us, please participate in the press conference scheduled for this Monday. The information is included below:

Elected officials, such as Assembly Speaker Silver, State Senator Squadron, Boro Pres. Stringer, Pub. Advocate Bill De Blasio, Council Members Mendez, CEC presidents and CCSE (Citywide Council on Special Education) members, have roundly criticized Mr. Klein's decision as he has chosen to ignore the interests of students with disabilities.
On Monday, August 9, 2010 at 1:00 PM, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer will host a Press Confernce at One Center Street, across form the DOE headquarters at Tweed Courthouse, to comment on this egregious abuse of power.

Please join those of us who support Boro President Stringer and his efforts to bring attention to a blatant misuse of power.

It is important to have as many members of the education community as possible at One Center Street, at 1 PM on Monday, August 9, to demonstrate their disagreement with, and dismay at, the Chancellor's actions.

contact Erin McGill

June 4th City-Wide School-Community Based Protests: No School-Based Budget Cuts or School Layoffs

June 4th City-Wide School-Community Based Protests:  No School-Based Budget Cuts or School Layoffs
Parents, Students, and School Workers at PS 15 Demand Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein Prioritize Spending for Public Education!

Public Education in NYC has faced over 500 million in cuts since 2009. The Mayor must seek other revenues instead of cutting our schools and other important services that are the lifeblood of our communities!