The following is an Op-Ed published in the Queens Courier. Definitely by a politician that gets the true picture of what's wrong with schools under Bloomberg's rule as mayor.
Privatization Of Public Education?
BY IVAN C. LAFAYETTE
Thursday, January 25, 2007 3:01 PM CST
Ivan C. Lafayette
I am extremely concerned by many of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s methods and the practices he has instituted pertaining to education. It seems clear to me that Bloomberg has slowly, but methodically been trying to privatize public education in New York City. This is a big problem for Queens because many of the Mayor’s methods are having a negative impact on the most overcrowded schools in the city.
Despite all of the Mayor’s proclamations about needing outside help to support education, New York City’s share of education costs out of a total city budget of 56 billion dollars was just 9 billion dollars or less than 20% of its available funds. The most recent planned state budget would have the state paying more than half of the city’s education budget, with the federal government contributing approximately 2 billion dollars.
I have spoken personally to Bloomberg over the last couple of years, alerting him of many locations I identified to build new schools, but unfortunately the Mayor, New York City Department of Education (DOE) and the School Construction Authority (SCA) did not act reasonably to acquire these properties and they were sold to other buyers. Meanwhile our public school students are still attending school in evermore-overcrowded classrooms.
Mayor Bloomberg has also made it known that he does not wish to use eminent domain to acquire property to build new schools. This has caused the SCA to not have the ability to purchase or lease property. The most overcrowded areas and overburdened schools in our city are precisely where property is difficult to obtain, and impossible without the possibility of eminent domain.
I believe the Mayor has an ulterior motive. He is hoping that as our public schools become more overcrowded, a greater demand for more construction of additional charter, private and parochial schools will occur, with available money for education going to these types of schools.
The Mayor also claimed that he has created 100 new schools. However, what he fails to say is that often he takes one school and breaks it down into four new schools, one of which is a charter school. This does not increase the number of seats and does not relieve the overcrowding.
The Mayor also seems to have the ability to use money from foundations established to help with the broad educational needs of children but instead distributes the money unfairly to private schools, charter schools and lastly public schools.
Additionally, the DOE has instituted a practice of first hiring contractors through a private, nonprofit corporation, the Fund for Public Schools, which collects donations for the school system and is controlled by Chancellor Joel Klein. The department then awards the contract at taxpayer expense without seeking bids. In fact, hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts have been awarded without bidding.
The school system is not subject to city rules that require competitive bidding unlike the police or sanitation departments. This puts the control of these no bid contracts squarely and solely in Mayor Bloomberg’s hands.
The Mayor has mouthed the mantra of smaller class sizes, full-day pre-k and classes for all three-year-olds, but his actions of not providing more seats deny children these resources.
Two years have now gone by since capitol funding has been made available and New York City has not really even started the process of utilizing this funding to help relieve the overcrowding. It was also unfortunate that the Mayor, unaware of new capital money available to him, stopped all capital repairs for three months affecting the health and safety of many students and faculty. This included fixing wiring, plumbing and heating, generally worsening conditions in existing schools.
We can do better. The public should have all of the information about what has happened under this current administration, and its failure to do what is required to give our children a sound education.
Assemblymember Ivan C. Lafayette represents the 34th Assembly District