Wednesday, December 17, 2014

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Protesters Rally Against School Closures To No Avail

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The United Federation of Teachers and Occupy the DOE protested during the Panel for Educational Policy meeting on school closures Thursday night, but they were ultimately unable to prevent a vote that will result in 23 city schools closing.

The Panel for Educational Policy voted to close 23 schools during the meeting at Brooklyn Technical High School in Fort Greene.

Occupy the DOE, a splinter group of Occupy Wall Street that stands opposed to the Department of Education, joined forces with the teachers union in an attempt to cancel the vote.

However, many of those protesters present at the meeting simply walked out as it was still in progress.

Police did not immediately allow them back in, creating something of a tense atmosphere until they re-entered the auditorium about 15 minutes later.

The United Federation of Teachers was initially planning to boycott the meeting altogether, sparking a shouting match between the two groups of protesters before the event was underway.

However, about an hour into the meeting, the UFT marched into the auditorium with its president, Michael Mulgrew, at the front.

"As you can see, the entire city is getting sick and tired of the way the school system is being treated, so that is why it’s so important that we have said enough is enough,” said Mulgrew.

The union bused protesters in for a rally well in advance of the PEP meeting and had planned to gather at P.S. 20 to celebrate the 23 schools on the chopping block.

The schools faced the ax because of poor performance, but some teachers and parents blame the city for a lack of resources and support.

The Department of Education pulled two schools from the list on Wednesday, dropping the total being voted on tonight from 25 to 23.

Still, this is the highest number of schools the PEP has ever voted on in a single night.

Another 33 schools face an overhaul. Their fates will be voted on in March or April.

This is the third year that state law has required the PEP to vote on school closure plans in a public meeting.

However, since the mayor appoints most of the panel members, they’ve always approved all of the proposals in front of them.

“When you have an entity that is supposed to listen and debate real issues and facts before making decisions that does not do that, that entity should no longer be a part of the process of the school system of New York City,” said Mulgrew.

Despite the PEP's tendencies, thousands of parents, teachers and students showed up to protest.

“The reason why we’re not letting anybody talk is because they never listen to us. We have our voices. We need to be heard. These are our schools,” said one student protester.

"The DOE is full of crap. I'll say it myself. Their statistics are wrong, I'll say it, trust me, they're wrong. They're really wrong, cause closing schools is not the answer. Thousands of students are abandoned," said another.

Earlier Thursday, the Independent Budget Office came out with a report looking closely at the students that each of the schools serve.

According to that report, the schools overwhelmingly serve a very high amount of low-income students and students with special needs.

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