12:02 p.m. | Updated Holding up an oversize report card on the steps of the Tweed Courthouse on Chambers Street, parents and elected officials on Tuesday gave an F to the city’s Department of Education in a protest to prevent the possible closing of several schools.
“This F represents the failure of this administration,” said City Councilwoman Letitia James of Brooklyn. “We have come here to the streets to say, ‘Mr. Mayor, you get an F on education.’ ”
Students and parents from the city’s most underserved communities have been holding weekly protests, accusing the Education Department of abandoning their schools by cutting budgets. The parents also object to the city’s policy of merging charter schools into their buildings.
“This is not about failing schools,” said Noah E. Gotbaum, president of Community Education Council District 3. “It’s purely about politics.” Frederick Douglass Academy II, which is a traditional public school in his district, now shares its building with two charters, Harlem Success Academy 1 and Harlem Success Academy 4.
The administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has encouraged the opening of schools to provide parents with choices, particularly in areas where the existing public schools have been failing to educate students. The city has also been closing schools that it decides are not capable of improving.
Any day now, the city is expected to announce its decision on which of the 47 schools on its “struggling schools” list it plans to shut.
In response to the protest, Marc Sternberg, the deputy chancellor, division of portfolio planning, said in a statement: “For the last two months, we’ve held discussions with members of 47 school communities to understand why these schools continue to struggle year after year. We’ve listened to community feedback on every campus, and will consider it in our final proposals next month. Ultimately, a new school environment may be the best option for some communities, and we won’t hesitate to pursue a strategy that has raised graduation rates and changed thousands of lives over the past nine years.”
At Public School 256 Benjamin Banneker in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, which is one of the schools vulnerable to closing, parents said last month that they believed the Education Department wanted to push out the struggling schools to make room for more charter schools.
Sue Hackshaw, a parent at General D. Chappie James Elementary School of Science, said she was willing to go all the way to the state to ensure that her child’s school did not close. And she hopes more parents will join her.
“We need more parent empowerment around this issue,” Ms. Hackshaw said. “We have to ring the alarm, because it seems like an attack on poor people. And an injustice for one is an injustice for all.”