DOE Chancellor Walcott On Closing Schools

Friday, July 22, 2011

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott (Spencer Platt/Getty)

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott talks about the New York Supreme Court ruling allowing the city to proceed with closing 22 schools and co-locating 15 charter schools.

The ruling came yesterday: New York City can proceed with plans to close twenty-two failing schools in September and place fifteen charter schools in regular school buildings, despite lawsuits from the teachers union and the NAACP. The suits allege that the move discriminates against regular district schools.

Chancelor Walcott says the ruling is a victory for students.

We’ve had a number of our students—thousands of our students—on hold, waiting for a decision by the judge as a result of this lawsuit.

The NAACP joined the Teacher’s Union in the lawsuit, arguing that charter schools located in district buildings get an unequal advantage in access to the building’s facilities, such as gyms and library space. Walcott does not agree with that assessment.

We try to make sure that all of our schools, whether they are charter or non-charter are treated in an equitable manner and to me that’s the most important thing.

Co-locations – schools located within other schools – are present in almost 50% of school buildings in the city. The chancellor said some 750 schools are co-located. These have caused some consternation among parents who feel opposed to giving up classrooms and library hours to another school. Walcott said that perception is misguided and that most co-located schools share resources well.

I understand their concerns but people sometimes become very space-oriented, as far as what was mine before is now something I have to share. This is not about specific schools having their own space, it’s about a building serving our students, and that’s our bottom-line goal.

Critics charge that charter schools weed out special-needs students and English-language learners, in order to show high achievement scores. Walcott said new laws will ensure that charter schools treat all students the same for admissions.

If that was a concern before, that concern has been rectified, I guess around last year, when the new law was put in place.

The academy leadership charter in the Bronx was disciplined recently for unfair admissions process. Walcott warned that he would continue to look for schools, charter or otherwise, who violated policy.

The schools chancellor said he was unaware of anything the judge in the case said about whether the failing schools were failing due to a lack of funding for the city. He dismissed the idea that the city killed off the schools in order to close them and said the city was instead providing special support for the schools during the phase-out.

People will put out what they feel sells. I deal with reality. And with these schools that are being phased out, we continue to support them… We want the student even in the phase-out schools to do well.

Walcott denied that there was disparate finding between charter schools and non-charters. He said all schools receive fair funding, and some schools are able to raise private funds as well, but denied that it was an issue of charter schools receiving special treatment.

People are constantly trying to make this a charter versus non-charter debate. I’m not going to get sucked into that. It’s about quality options.

And what happens to summer school in buildings with no air conditioning on a 100+ degree day? While Walcott said there are some students in that situation, and they “are working on that”, the majority of students have been placed in buildings with cooling facilities, or at least air-conditioned rooms.


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Comments [11]

Randi from FiDi

As a alum of the NYC public schools, I am dismayed how this Mayor and his Education chancellors have completed run the education system of the City of NY into the ground. I agree that we need good schools (private, charter and pubilc) but when I see good public schools being compromised in order to establish a charter in the same location or bad schools not getting the support/resources needed, yet there's a push by the DOE to close that school and set up a charter... then it seems to me that we have an administration that is undermining its own public school system to advance the notion of publicly financed privately controlled schools. This is very scary.

Jul. 25 2011 10:00 AM

In response to Tom from Brooklyn, the issue you raise is what frightens many of us parents whose children are in "good" schools. Our children are getting short-changed because the city figures they'll do OK on standardized tests anyway. It's truly abominable not to ensure that your city's hardest working and brightest students don't receive the absolute best in teaching and equipment that the city can provide. What's even more galling is that this is being done in the name of equity. I urge every parent to read about and understand thoroughly the "Fair Student Funding" policies, which are more than a little problematic and only went into place in about 2008. More money travels to schools whose students are identified as ESL or special needs,than follows students who are just, well, students, which is to say, the majority of children regardless of neighborhood, race, or ethnicity.

Jul. 24 2011 09:21 AM

Too many questions, not enough tough follow up when the chancellor gave evasive answers.

Jul. 22 2011 11:32 AM
Tom from Brooklyn

I am an Assistant Principal at a successful NYC public school. The Chancellor mentioned equitable treatment of regular public schools and charter schools. One policy that is clearly inequitable is connected to the hiring freeze. Right now regular public schools cannot hire any teachers new to the DOE. We have plenty of excellent student teachers that we want to hire, but can't. Charter schools are exempt from the hiring freeze. So, as long as this freeze is on, Charter schools will get to pick the best new teachers coming into the system. How can we compare the performance of schools, when our hands in regular public schools are tied. If hands need to be tied because of budget problems, tie everyone's hands for a shorter period of time. The current policy is completely unfair to students in regular public schools.

Jul. 22 2011 10:55 AM
Leo from Queens

Brian, another 'hard hitting' interview of a city government official. These guys are committing serious crimes and fraud against our children with total impunity.. At the very least you can force them to explain the inconsistencies and damage they are causing to our educational system.

It's very disappointing - I understand that WNYC needs the financial support of the monied elite which controls this City. But it's really a crime to continue to support the shameful abuse of our children, parents and teachers

Jul. 22 2011 10:50 AM

I'm a little uncomfortable with how he distances himself from failing public schools. It sounds like they're out there, left to fend for themselves, rather than being a part of a system that should support them.

Jul. 22 2011 10:45 AM
Leo from queens

The Comment from James from Kew Gardens is an excellent comment.. WNYC and the politicians are claiming this great accomplishment of how teaching jobs were saved. No mention is made of the unnecessary stress and uncertainty that was put on teachers AND students for the second half of the year - No one talks about the negative effect this must have had on teacher performance and focus if many of them were worried about losing their jobs and possibly having to move out of the City to find a job.
These politicians are just using teachers and are intentionally undermining education with a focus on testing.

Jul. 22 2011 10:41 AM

How is this not about charter vs. non-charter like he said? He just closed 22 non-tuition charging schools. If the public schools are failing that badly, doesn't it mean the city is failing them?

Jul. 22 2011 10:41 AM
Leo from Queens

Isn't the closing of these schools to be replaced by private schools really an education version of Enron accounting? you are just shifting kids around into different 'schools' so that you can cook that numbers.. Please ask the commissioner about the ways the numbers on 'progress' are being cooked by moving people around different 'new' schools.
Also, this policy of moving to privatization while undermining education from within has been in place for 10 years now.. .Where is the accountability that Mr. Bloomberg claims we should hold him to?

Jul. 22 2011 10:36 AM
Stephanie from Kew Gardens, Queens

Why have school supply lists expanded so dramatically?

Lists now includs janitorial supplies like like hand sanitizer, paper towel, baby wipes, and kleenex. And we have to buy other supplies in huge quantities. Twenty-four glue sticks per child? Three reams of copy paper?

What's the deal?

Jul. 22 2011 10:21 AM
James from Kew Gardens, Queens

Please comment on how hard-working professional teachers have to fear for their jobs every spring and feel like they are used as political pawns each time these closings are threatened.

It drives away potential quality teachers.

Jul. 22 2011 10:21 AM

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