A Blow to School Reform

It shouldn’t be this hard to do right by the city’s public school children.

An arbitrator recently ruled that the Bloomberg administration could not go forward with plans to close—and then reopen—24 failing schools throughout the city. Why not? It would be wonderful to report that the arbitrator found that the city hadn’t gone far enough on behalf of students. But, alas, that’s not the case. Instead, the arbitrator contended that the plan violated labor contracts.

So it’s all about the teachers—and the teachers’ union.

Not surprisingly, the United Federation of Teachers and the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators initiated the opposition. By closing and then reopening the schools, the city could have replaced principals, vetted staff and hired back fewer teachers. Those with a stake in the status quo found this unacceptable. They always do.

The city’s plan is tied to efforts to win $60 million in federal education funds. The arbitrator’s ruling puts that funding in jeopardy and has only added to confusion and chaos in the 24 schools.

One thing, however, is evident: The forces of the status quo continue to show that they have little interest in transforming public education in New York. They have resisted evaluation, accountability, tenure reform and other changes. Their allies in the state Legislature and elsewhere have aided and abetted in this active resistance to reform.

Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott promised to appeal the arbitrator’s decision. “We will not give up on the students at these 24 schools,” they said.

At least somebody is thinking about who really benefits from school reform.