Liu says Bloomberg is playing a shell game with his 'new schools' data
Speaking last night to a crowded co-location hearing at a Harlem middle school, Comptroller John Liu said Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s recent announcement the city would open dozens of new schools in the fall was misleading because it mostly relied on closing schools and adding new ones to old locations.
“That to me is not real progress,” he said. “That’s just a news release claiming that you’ve created 54 schools when in fact nothing new has actually been created.”
It’s no surprise that Liu, who gets heavy support from the teachers union and is hoping to run for mayor despite damaging investigations into his campaign's fund-raising practices, opposes the Bloomberg administration's effort to spread co-locations. But his opposition was only part of a series of co-location battles happening across New York.
It's been a big week for education issues, particularly mayoral control and the current administration's push for charters and co-location, setting up city schools as a prominent part of the 2013 elections.
On Tuesday, Bill Thompson took perhaps the hardest stance against the mayor's agenda by calling for a halt to all school closures. And earlier yesterday, in a Council hearing about co-location, Councilwoman Letita James of Brooklyn, who is preparing for a possible run for public advocate, threatened to sue the Department of Education to stop a co-location at K117, which already houses four schools. Next week, the Panel for Educational Policy will vote on 43 measures to close or co-locate schools across the city.
It’s also, coincidentally, testing week.
“It makes little sense to me to have a dozen of these so-called schools in the same building where a school would have been operating very well, as it has been for years and in some cases, decades,” Liu said to the room.
He went on to criticize the D.O.E for playing “shell games” by opening and co-locating schools. On his way out, Liu told Capital why he thought City Hall's data on new schools was misleading.
“That’s just not aligned with public perception," Liu said. "When the public hears '54 new schools,' they think of this as a school. The public doesn’t understand and doesn’t appreciate the new definition of a school, which is really, in the eyes of this administration, a management unit. So that’s number one, it’s hard to understand these annual announcements of dozens of new schools when in fact there are no real new schools being created.”
As he walked through the hallway to leave, a number of supporters complimented him and asked him to pose for photos.
“We’re gonna vote for you for mayor," one female supporter said. "We love you, we wanted Bill Thompson and we cried when he didn’t make it."
The comptroller thanked her.
“Alright. You’re doing great,” she said. “Stay on it.”
Liu then returned to the topic, saying mayoral control of school policy made the D.O.E. less accountable to the public.
“They make these decisions, they rely heavily on outside experts or consultants that they pay big bucks to but have very little applicable real world experience in our New York City public schools," Liu said. "So I would say it hasn’t worked, it hasn’t achieved its true purpose of accountability on the mayor for the performance of the schools. In fact, it’s created much less accountability.”