City Forges Ahead on Restructuring at 33 Schools

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WNYC WNYC's Beth Fertig explains politics behind push to close some struggling schools

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg says the city is moving ahead with plans to close and reopen 33 struggling schools even though it means replacing about half their teachers or, according to some critics of the plan, he's proceeding because it means replacing half the teaching staff.

"The only thing that matters is helping the children and yes, we will do that. Nobody should make any mistake about that," the mayor said at a news conference on Monday.

The city stands to lose $58 million in school improvement grants this month because the Bloomberg administration and the United Federation of Teachers couldn't agree on a new teacher evaluation system. The city now believes it can keep the federal money by switching to a different model that requires it to close and reopen the 33 schools by the fall with different staff members.

Many teachers at the affected schools believe that the mayor is bluffing in order to force the union to agree to a new system that will make it easier to remove low-performing teachers.

“This is not about the money; this is about crippling the 33 PLA [persistently low-achieving] schools; it's about closing as many schools as possible,” said Michael Solo, a teacher and a union representative at John Dewey High School, which would be affected by the restructuring.

Preliminary meetings with staff members and parents at the school wrap up Tuesday.

Listen to the audio above from WNYC for more on the politics behind the change in policy.