We’ve just heard from the Department of Education about the Girls Prep situation. State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver released a statement earlier today saying the DOE’s decision to implement an expansion plan for the charter school — in spite of a state order blocking it — amounts to a “breathtaking end run around both the law’s requirements and the right(s) of parents…”
On Monday, State Education Commissioner David Steiner threw out the middle school expansion plan. His ruling said the city’s Education Department failed to properly consult with parents of P.S.94, one of two schools sharing a building on East Houston Street with Girls Prep. Tonight DOE Spokesman Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld explained the DOE’s decision to stay the course:
“We are going to use the Chancellor’s emergency powers granted by the State’s education law to ensure these students are accommodated at Girls Prep in the fall.”
He also pointed us to a section of Steiner’s ruling, which reads:
“…nothing herein shall be construed as preventing the Chancellor from determining that the DOE proposal is immediately necessary for the preservation of student health, safety or general welfare, and from invoking the emergency provisions in the Education Law 2950-h (2-a) (f).”
A headline in this morning’s Daily News read, “Chancellor Joel Klein ignores ruling and decides he will move school for autistic children.” In the spring, a group called Advocates for Children filed a complaint with the state, on behalf of parents from P.S. 94, a special needs school. “To the extent that there’s any emergency,” the organization’s attorney Rebecca Shore told the News, “it is the Education Department’s own creation.”
But what’s the DOE’s justification of invoking an emergency in this case? (not that they have one…)
The DOE’s response to us was confined to a specific point: that Steiner’s decision specifically authorized the chancellor to invoke his emergency powers if he saw fit.
The Chancellor pits parent against parent, family against family. This is unacceptable. No parent should be played this way. No matter if you are a parent of Girls Prep or PS 94.
Using “…immediately necessary for the preservation of student health, safety or general welfare…” doesn’t fly. If the Chancellor has the health and safety of children at heart then: Whose health? Whose welfare? Do the other children just not count? How do you justify taking vulnerable children out of their home-base school and treating them as less important? Is not parenting a child with autism challenge enough in this system?
No parent should be left scrambling for resources in a city as wealthy as this one. Vanity charter schools are not the answer. A cohesive public approach that allows for local autonomy just might be (and that could include charter schools).
Every parent and school official should read the Hunter College graduation speech by Justin Hudson http://www.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/speech.pdf?ref=nyregion.
He writes, beautifully, of how a “good” education that excludes so many others is not a real victory for our society. And I would say maybe it’s not an education at all.
The arrogance of this astounds. Bring on the Disability Rights suits.
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