Apr 18, 2009

TAGNYC Testimony Mayoral Control Hearings February 6, 2009

The following testimony was transcribed and is part of the public record.

The DOE under Bloomberg and Klein is totally lacking in transparency. There you have the only reason needed for ending mayoral control. The DOE is subject to no law. Its legal department will lie in the face of documents that belie the lie. Its legal department will refuse to provide information requested by citizens under the Freedom of Information Law. Possible criminal charges- 300 last year- are filed against the DOE and these charges are read by only one man-Joel Klein. The DOE holds monthly public meetings. But for the past two years, no transcripts are kept of what transpires during these meetings. Public criticism is not allowed to leave the room. No media attend. No UFT representatives attend.

I am certain that most, if not all, of the New York State legislators know that there has not been a great advance in academic achievement within the inner city schools. I am certain that all of you know that most of any advance in supposed achievement within the NYC schools is the result of lowered performance requirements on state exams and the academic fraud practiced and encouraged by many administrators within the NYC school system. Whose interest is being served by, in Bush’s words, “the soft bigotry of low expectations?” Whose interest has been served by allowing Michael Bloomberg and Joel Klein to perpetuate this hoax on the minority population of this City? They say what they do is “for the children.” And the teachers of NYC say, “Get Real.”

The teachers know the real deal. We have serious concerns about our schools and the “education” our students are receiving under the Bloomberg/Klein administration. While the implementation of some of Bloomberg and Klein’s ideas has resulted in cost-effective and perhaps efficient corporate practices, too many of their policies have devastated students, faculty, and parents. Most notable during the Bloomberg-Klein tenure is the oppressive, hostile, abusive work/learning environment created and condoned in many schools across the City. And on the firing line is the NYC teacher- the perennial scapegoat for why children don’t learn. The principals have abused their power to the point where targeted teachers are routinely and shamefully harassed and victimized. And the principals’ tool for ridding themselves of teachers who are too costly or too outspoken is the Temporary Reassignment Centers, also referred to as the ‘rubber rooms.”

The Reassignment Centers are testimony to the high stakes game known as ‘educational reform.” The stakes are higher political office, greater paychecks, the destruction of public education, but mainly, as we believe history will show, the goal is to keep society structured into an elite and a group to serve that elite. How else to explain the passing through of students while calling that progress. The Reassignment Centers are necessary to the success of this game. The Administration pedals these Centers as evidence that finally, finally the roots of inner city school failure, the incompetent teachers, are being ripped out of the system. The Reassignment Centers serve other purposes: They allow unethical and scared principals to selectively, selectively remove teachers; they allow the Bloomberg-Klein Administration to destroy teaching as a long term career, and they rev up the voices against tenure and its due process protections. The Reassignment Centers make possible the continued ignoring of who and what is really responsible for the plight of the inner city school- society and the ills it has perpetuated.

The teachers are not responsible for CFE monies not going to reduce class size or for the failure to build new schools in expanding neighborhoods, or for the lack of creation of adequate school libraries. The teachers are not responsible for the tons of money wasted on consultants, bogus educational programs, inappropriate textbooks, suspect accountability systems; the teachers are not responsible that the future astronauts and architects are in bed and not in their first period classes. The teachers are not responsible for the horrendous abandonment of the special needs students and the ELL students. The teachers are not responsible for the decades long destruction of respect for the teacher and his/her authority within the classroom The teachers are not responsible for segregated housing patterns or for the poverty that breeds the hopelessness and violence that too often show up in the inner city classrooms. But the teacher is always the fall guy.

So a parent who wants his child to have a valid education has to ask: “What is different in the schools today? Why is there such a turn-around in teaching staff?” Teachers functioning as ATRs, teachers pushed into Reassignment Centers, teachers who retire because they can’t take the harassment of score-driven, business model principals, or the non-teaching they are supposed to sign onto.” These are the questions parents must start asking because your children are being cheated royally. When The NY Post reports that 83% of NYC students entering community colleges need remedial training it is past time to challenge the merit of the ‘higher graduation rates’ under Bloomberg-Klein and it is past time to demand an investigation of the smoke and mirrors that champions itself as Michael Bloomberg’s educational reform.

Make no mistake: It is for the politics, not for the children.