For a taste of how the November election could bring the bad old days back to New York Citys schools, consider the lawsuit by teachers-union boss Mike Mulgrew to throw out the Bloomberg administrations plans for school sitings for the 2014 school year.
Many of the new schools will be "co-located" in the same building with another school; a few are charters.
The suits been endorsed by both Democratic primary winner Bill de Blasio and runnerup Bill Thompson, suggesting that theyd end the Bloomberg practice to please Mulgrew and his United Federation of Teachers.
And their public arguments are preposterous.
First, it is not unusual for the Bloomberg team to announce school openings a year in advance. As Department of Education spokesman Devon Puglia told Gotham Schools, the proposals are "simply conducive to successful and strategic long-term planning. We always aim to plan as far in advance as possible for all of our schools."
Thats because opening a new school is hard: You need to hire and orient teachers and other staff, get the site in shape for opening day, acquire furniture, supplies and textbooks and make sure the new students know where theyre supposed to go.
Orderly planning was unusual before Mayor Bloomberg won control of the schools in 2002. Back then, chaos was common. The first week of school was usually bedlam, with countless teachers and students often not placed in schools until mid-September. Books often arrived in October. Principals got their budgets in November.
Second, public schools have been co-located with other public schools for as long as the city school system has existed literally. The NYC Charter School Center points to a document from 1898 the year the five boroughs merged that states: "In many cases, two or even three district school organizations or departments, each having its own principal, [are] in one building."
About 1,150 (63 percent) of the citys 1,818 public schools now share space inside often quite large public-school buildings. Each school is assigned a segment of classrooms and hallways, while major amenities such as gyms and libraries are shared. Of these co-located schools, 1,035 are district (i.e., union) public schools; they rarely attract attention. Only the 115 of the co-located schools that are charters (mostly nonunion) attract the scorn of the teachers union and its allies.
Third, co-located schools do not cause overcrowding, as the critics claim. The Independent Budget Office is required to provide analysis of the city school system. Its most recent report (based on data from the 2009-10 school year) shows that buildings containing more than one school were actually less utilized (84.7 percent) than buildings with only one school (103.7 percent). The IBO defines a building as overcrowded if its utilization level based on students per square foot exceeds 102.5 percent.
The NYC Charter School Center crunched the numbers for the 2011-12 school year using the same methodology and found similar results: Buildings hosting co-located schools tend to be much less crowded than single-school buildings, and those with charters are even less crowded.
Finally, and most important, the Bloomberg administrations efforts to encourage the growth of charter schools and smaller, theme-based schools are improving student achievement. On the rigorous new state tests, 79 percent of charters posted higher proficiency rates in math than their "peer" schools; 54 percent had higher rates in reading. Nine NYC charters performed better than the schools in wealthy Scarsdale.
The charter sectors success is well documented. Less well-known is the success of the hundreds of new small district schools. This has been a hallmark of the Bloomberg reforms: breaking up large schools, mostly high schools, into smaller academies, such as those in the successful Urban Assembly network.
These smaller schools foster the sense of community that sociologist James Coleman identified as the key to good schools; every teacher and school official knows every student by name.
The respected research firm MDRC is conducting a multiyear study of these small schools. Its latest report came out this month; it reveals that students in these schools have a high-school graduation rate 10 percentage points higher than students in traditional schools.
Bottom line: De Blasio, Thompson and Mulgrews opposition to long-term planning and the successful charters and small schools created in the Bloomberg era is a grim sign for the future of the citys schools.
Original Source: http://nypost.com/2013/09/11/the-ugly-war-on-co-locating-city-schools/