Brennan Calls For One-Year Moratorium on School Restructurings

Says budget crisis requires resources to be targeted to existing schools; new report questions restructuring policy
February 8, 2011
In testimony presented before the Panel on Educational Policy (PEP) on January 19, 2011, State Assemblymember Jim Brennan (D-Bklyn) called for a one year moratorium on the Department of Education’s (DOE) school restructuring policy. This policy involves the constant opening and closing of dozens of schools every year.

Two weeks ago the PEP voted to co-locate a fourth high school in the John Jay building in Park Slope. This week the PEP will vote on the closing of 25 schools and the co-location of 47 schools in 21 buildings. “Dozens of new small schools and charters will drain tens of millions of dollars from existing schools in start-up funds and special renovations, but the New York City school system is facing up to a billion dollars in budget cuts in the State budget and potentially more than 10,000 layoffs,” Mr. Brennan said. “The existing schools need to take priority now,” he continued.

“The closures also need to be halted; these schools are victims of policies that are destabilizing many traditional neighborhood schools,” Mr. Brennan added. He pointed to an Independent Budget Office (IBO) report released last week. The report noted that the DOE policy of closing schools and replacing them with new schools presupposed that students would be better served in the new schools. However, eight of the 25 schools being closed were opened by the Bloomberg administration to replace closing schools. This indicates that the success of the constant restructurings is questionable. However, the cost is not. New schools receive start up funds even though they start with fewer students and the cost of adding a new school diverts funding from repairs to restructuring renovations.

The IBO report found that the schools currently slated for closure have more challenging populations in terms of the number of students in poverty, the percentage of students living in temporary housing, the percentage of high school students entering the 9th grade over-age, and the percentage of high school students in special education compared to citywide averages. It also found that the percentage of the neediest students in these schools had been growing at a faster rate than the citywide average. Brennan said that the report strengthened the case that students in existing schools must get the support they need to succeed before diverting funds to closures and restructuring experiments.

THE JOHN JAY CAMPUS AND MILLENNIUM HIGH SCHOOL


On January 19, 2011 Brennan testified in support of the three Secondary Schools on the John Jay campus in his district in Park Slope. The DOE proposed the addition of a fourth new high school in the building. A public hearing was held on January 11th followed by the PEP vote just one week later. “This inappropriate process excluded any collaboration or engagement with the community and is a sham,” Mr. Brennan said.
Brennan opposed the addition of a select high school to the John Jay campus on additional grounds, namely:
  • The DOE failed to meet the expressed needs of the existing schools.

  • There are staggering and inequitable funding disparities between the existing John Jay schools and the current Millennium Manhattan school.


The John Jay Secondary Schools have continuously been denied DOE support. They never received start-up funds to which they were entitled. They failed to obtain Title I funding until the 2006 school year. They lost funding for Saturday school and after-school programs. The schools repeatedly requested that metal detectors at the school be removed and that repairs be made to leaky roofs, falling tiles, and broken toilets and radiators.

Deputy Chancellor Grimm stated at the January 19th PEP meeting that DOE would make capital repairs to the building “if this proposal is accepted.” Mr. Brennan commented that it was outrageous to tie basic repairs to school buildings to the DOE’s co-location decisions.

Brennan also noted that the funding disparity between the John Jay schools and Millennium High School is staggering; the DOE website shows Millennium has between a $2,000-$3,000 per year per student disparity.

Brennan testified that the DOE had an obligation to do justice and meet the needs of the existing schools first before funding new programs. There are already 455 high schools in the New York City public school system. The Millennium Brooklyn start-up would receive at least $180,000 in special new funds as well, diverting resources from existing schools while budgets for the existing schools were being cut.
The PEP voted to approve the co-location of Millennium over the objections of the parents, teachers, and students at the three John Jay campus schools. “This is the wrong approach. The DOE should be protecting and strengthening the existing schools,” Mr. Brennan concluded.