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 SCHOOLOn 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.