On Friday, I was asked to elicit advice from NYC parents to Obama for The Nation magazine, which was supposedly working on an article about this issue. I thought this was a good opportunity to get some media attention to the disdain and horror that many NYC parents feel about the prospect of Joel Klein running the US Department of Education. Though I still haven't heard from the Nation, in the process I have received hundreds of passionate letters from parents and teachers who vehemently oppose this appointment, based upon Klein's sorry record here in NYC -- and one email from a parent who praised him.
I suppose I should also respond to the comments of David Cantor, the DOE spokesperson, who is quoted in the NY Times as follows:
The chancellor has spent the last six years building a school system focused on the needs of kids. Along the way he’s angered adults with entrenched interests in policies that have never worked. That’s a trade he’ll make every time.
I actually haven't noticed that this Chancellor has ever tried reducing class size or addressing the other needs of NYC children to receive a decent, well-rounded education but instead has lurched from one faddish theory to another in his attempt to make it look like he is improving our schools. When he's been unsuccessful at accomplishing this goal, he has tried to manipulate the statistics to prove otherwise. But it is true that he has angered adults -- teachers and parents alike-- who have a real interest in trying to ensure that our schools provide a real opportunity to learn.
Anyway, my letter follows -- please everyone, add your own recommendations to Obama in the comments section!
The Department of Education under Joel Klein has been run like a ruthless dictatorship – with no input from parents or educators, and no thought of how the policies he has imposed on our schools have been destructive to our children and their futures.
He has consistently ignored the crisis of overcrowding in our schools, that in many neighborhoods has gotten worse because of rampant residential development, as well as a result of his insistence to insert hundreds of new charter schools and small schools into existing, overcrowded school buildings. In a recent survey, half of all principals say that the overcrowding creates unsafe conditions for students or staff, 29% said that lunch starts at 10:30 AM or earlier, 25% said that they have lost their art or music rooms in recent years, and 18% said they had classrooms with no windows. Thousands of children are being given special services in hallways or in closets.
He has put almost no effort in building new schools, and under this administration, twice as many new seats have been created in new stadiums than schools. The city’s investment in school construction as a percent of its total capital spending is at an historic low, and will drop even more precipitously in the future, if the DOE’s proposed school capital plan goes through
Joel Klein has refused to reduce class size, despite repeated audits and reports from the State Comptroller’s office and the State Education Department showing how under his administration, hundreds of millions of state dollars meant to provide smaller classes to NYC students have been misused. As a result, 86% of NYC principals in a recent survey have said they are unable to provide a quality education because of excessive class sizes.
Similarly, he has argued that even under Mayoral control, the Department of Education is not subject to city law, and thus he continues to defy laws passed by the City Council over the Mayor’s veto, requiring him to take measures against bias crimes and bullying in schools, to allow students to bring cell phones to school, and to obey the recycling laws required of every household and business in NYC.
The Chancellor has moved to eliminate the authority of school leadership teams –made up of half parents, half staff – to have decision-making authority over school budgets, contrary to the state law that created these teams. He has continued to shut out parents from having any input whatsoever, at the school, district, or citywide level.
He has spent literally hundreds of millions of dollars on no-bid contracts, and rather than decreasing the bureaucracy, the number of highly paid bureaucrats at
The only educational philosophy of those running the system is based on trying to improve standardized test results, no matter how much cheating and test prep that involves. Whatever the rise in state test scores that has resulted is not matched by improvements in the more reliable national assessments called the NAEPs. In fact, NYC was 11th out of 12 urban school districts in terms of its gains in the NAEPs over the course of this administration, and there has been no closing of the achievement gap in any subject tested.
In short, he has been a disaster for our schools, and Barack Obama should be forewarned not to name him to any position of authority in his administration – as much as we would like to get rid of him!