Leonie acknowledges that de Blasio and his Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina are not rushing to close schools or co-locate as many charter schools as their predecessor. That's the positive news. Then, Leonie goes on the attack.
First, she slams the literacy coaches being hired by Farina because this is not a research proven method to improve literacy and a similar program was already attempted by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg without success.
On lowering class sizes, Leonie is blunt in her criticism of the Department of Education. She states:
At the same time, the number of students in grades K-3 in classes of 30 or more continues to increase, with more than 48,000 students in the early grades in classes this large, and more than 350,000 students overall in classes this large. Class size reduction is a research-proven reform, and the top choice of parents on the Department of Education’s (DOE) own surveys. Despite this, the chancellor has repeatedly stated that she doesn’t consider class size reduction a priority.
This summer, the city also rejected the recommendations of its own appointed task force to align the school capacity formula with smaller classes. Despite a promise to the state to focus its efforts on lowering class size on the 93 struggling Renewal schools, we found that 40 percent did not lower class size and over 60 percent still have classes of 30 or more.
Leonie then takes on school budgets and notes how the city is only planning to fund schools at 91% of Fair Student Funding. Leonie then crushes de Blasio on waste in contracts noting that the city is paying $2,291 an hour for consulting at Renewal Schools. That's somewhat higher than A teacher's hourly rate for per session. She then is critical of school overcrowding which she claims will only worsen as the city is not building enough schools to keep up with enrollment growth.
Leonie then fires one last missile when she blasts de Blasio-Farina for appealing a lawsuit that parents and Public Advocate Letitia James won saying that School Leadership Team meetings must be open to the public to comply with the open meetings law. The city is improperly arguing that the SLT's are only advisory so the open meetings law does not apply. State law contradicts this assertion.
Though we won the lawsuit, the city is now appealing. This refusal to grant parents any real authority via their School Leadership Teams reflects a larger problem: the DOE is still excessively wedded to top-down policymaking, with far too little respect for the views of the parents and other stakeholder groups whose input will be critical to improving our schools.
We all have to be wary of so called progressives such as de Blasio saying they will improve our schools. From my point of view as a classroom teacher, Leonie is absolutely correct. Top-down management has not changed one iota from Bloomberg Klein to de Blasio-Farina. That is sad news.
The only people happy with the status quo seem to be the leadership of the UFT and the bureaucracy at DOE.