But what do the parents have to say about the way their children are educated? Do they have a right to be involved, or do you think it should just be the DOE that makes all the decisions from on high and then the little people carry out your demands?
The real question is why the failing schools have not been able to be turned around. Is it because it just can’t be done, or is it because if you let the schools fall far enough down, you can, with the stroke of a pen, close them and open up smaller ones in the same space? Is that really an answer?
We don’t need to replace the schools. We need to replace the system. Let parents have a say; let young people have a say. Give us back our schools, and let’s change the way the whole game is played. And in the end, our children and our communities must come out as the winners.
Dukes said that the NAACP has met with the DOE many times over the past four years and referenced a recent lawsuit demanding smaller class sizes. Dukes said they won the suit, but nothing has changed in the schools. “We still have 30 to 40 children in classes,” said Dukes. She also expressed disgust at the thought that the DOE might have used student attendance as a measurement for closing schools.
“In Far Rockaway, we have an influx of homeless children in shelters [attending schools in the area],” said Dukes. “And you know some night you can be in shelter B and the next night you’re in shelter C, which is not in the same community. While the parents and the children try to weed through the bureaucracy, the school isn’t helping and just counting them absent.”
While Borough President Stringer isn’t sure that attendance was taken into account by the PEP, it’s only because he’s not sure if any criteria exists for the school closings. “I was hoping this day would not come,” said Stringer in a phone interview with the AmNews. “I asked the PEP to delay closing the schools until we learned what the criteria were for closing the schools, and we have not gotten this. My representative on the PEP had to vote no because we couldn’t have an open process.” But despite the open process, or lack thereof, those who carry the torch for Mayor Michael Bloomberg and School Chancellor Joel Klein are backing the PEP’s decision.
Dennis M. Walcott, the deputy mayor for education and community development in New York City, wrote an op-ed in the New York Post advocating the school closings, claiming it’s a civil rights issue. “Continuing to send students to failing schools, especially when we know how poor the odds are that they will succeed in those schools, and when we have evidence that we can do better, represents a fundamental violation of the civil rights of our children of color and their families,” he wrote. Walcott believes that the UFT, NAACP and others are “failing to protect the interests of our African-American and Latino children.”
But where will those children go? What about class size? How will classes affect the way the city’s children learn? Every question has popped in the mind of Dukes and she hasn’t, based on recent experiences, come up with an answer that’s pretty.
....“We’ve been patient. We’ve tried to reason,” continued Dukes. “To me, they are hell-bent on knowing everything that is good for the children. That’s disrespectful to the parents, to the community and to our children.”