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January 13, 2012

NYC parents fight against Bloomberg's school cuts


As the saga continues over public school closures across the city, parents and students at one school in Brooklyn, like several others in the borough, aren't giving in to closure without a fight.

M.S. 587 Middle School for the Arts in Crown Heights is slated for closure. In response, parents held a rally last week to get the school removed from the Department of Education's (DOE) list. A crowd of parents gathered at the school last Thursday and said the school is too needed in the community to be taken away.

Situated in District 17, M.S. 587 not only serves many students but also serves children with special needs. The school had Collaborative Team Teaching (CTT) teachers. CTT classes consist of one general education teacher and one special education teacher, providing a reduced student-teacher ratio. M.S. 587 also has three resource classrooms.

"Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg's administrative tactics are not working for our children or our community, and we don't want to see this school closed because of political posturing," said Charlene Williams, the former PTA president of M.S. 587 who organized last week's rally.

Schools slated for closure are getting traction right now as Panel for Education Policy (PEP) public meetings take place. The purpose of the panel is to get public comment on why a school should be saved.

The AmNews previously reported on efforts to get Brooklyn's Satellite III Middle School off the city's closure list. Parents said that the DOE didn't grade the school properly because of a change in principals and that the school has made significant improvements. The PEP meeting for that school is scheduled for Jan. 19. M.S. 287's PEP meeting is scheduled for Jan. 12.

While PEP meetings are supposed to give parents a chance to let their voices be heard regarding why schools shouldn't close, critics say they're not an effective tool because several members on the panel are appointed and influenced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

However, M.S. 587 and Satellite III are just two schools that are fighting back against the heavy hand of the DOE and the state. It was announced earlier this week that over 500 parents from 42 school districts across the state are planning to rally in Albany to demand equity in the distribution of $805 million in school aid Gov. Andrew Cuomo has committed to put in his budget.

"Last year's $1.3 billion cut was two to three times as large in poor districts as in wealthy districts. As a result, already underfunded districts had to choose to make cuts to the quality of the curriculum; cuts in arts, music and sports, cuts in tutoring and in college prep courses or all of the above," said Zakiyah Ansari, advocacy director of the Alliance for Quality Education.

Parents, teachers and education advocates say that it's one reason some schools are closing and others are lacking resources they need, especially in low-income neighborhoods.

Brooklyn school parent Victoria Ceron of Make the Road New York added that public education in certain neighborhoods is in crisis and that crucial programs needed in inner-city schools are disappearing.

"Due to state and city budget cuts in the last two years, the education system is spending less and less on our children," said Ceron. "Our children are the men and women of tomorrow. They all deserve to have dreams, they all deserve our support to become the best they can be. Children living around the lower middle class and poor neighborhoods are left well behind other children educated in wealthy school districts that received smaller budget cuts."

To read the original article, click here.


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