GothamSchools this morning reports a new poll this morning, which includes a question about Mayor Bloomberg’s policy of closing schools with low test scores.
The poll showed rejection of mayoral control, as is now typical, but the closing-schools question was worded in peculiar fashion. Instead of asking, “Do you approve or disapprove of the mayor’s policy of closing schools” or in some relatively neutral way, the poll posed this alternative:
“Mayor Bloomberg wants to close a number of low performing public schools and replace them. Which comes closer to your point of view; this is good educational policy, or this is an attack on the teacher’s union?”
Now, as a matter of fact, I don’t see the closing-schools policy “as an attack on the teachers’ union.” I see it as part of a privatization and community destablization policy, one that leaves communities feeling hopeless and powerless. In my view, what happens to the union and its member is not a central issue, since its members will get jobs in other schools or get thrown into the make-rolls of Absent Teachers Reserves. Certainly, the policy is not good for the members of the union, but they are collateral damage. The major damage, when a traditional neighborhood school is closed, is to the local community. That’s why thousands of parents and students come out to protest at public hearings. They are not protesting at the behest of the union, they are protesting the loss of an institution that was a central part of their lives.
The closing of a neighborhood school, with its trophy cases and its memories, even the loss of its name, is a dagger into the heart of the community, just one more thread torn away, leaving people without the ties that made them a community.
Please, if anyone knows how to reach the people who construct the Quinniapiac polls at the CT university of that name, please ask them to rephrase the question. They are asking the wrong question.
P.S. My computer refuses to open the GothamSchools website, so I can’t post a link. Here is the story:
Posted: 10 May 2012 04:40 AM PDT
Fewer than four in 10 New Yorkers think closing schools makes for sound education policy, according to the results of a new poll released today. And approval is lowest in the borough most hard-hit by school closures under the Bloomberg administration.
The poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University’s survey center, focused largely on 2013 mayoral race and found that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is a clear frontrunner among the Democratic candidates. But it also asked a raft of questions about education policy in the city.
Several of the questions had been asked before and yielded consistent results. New Yorkers still want the next mayor to share school control with an independent board, disapprove in large numbers of how Mayor Bloomberg is handling the city’s schools, and are divided about whether the teachers union exerts a positive force.
But one question had never appeared on a Quinnipiac poll before. It asked, “Mayor Bloomberg wants to close a number of low performing public schools and replace them. Which comes closer to your point of view; this is good educational policy, or this is an attack on the teacher’s union?”
Thirty-eight percent of poll respondents said they thought replacing struggling schools made educational sense. A larger number, 44 percent, said school closures represent an attack on the teacher’s union. Nearly 20 percent said they didn’t know how to answer the question.
The poll results suggest that personal proximity to school closures might breed opposition to the policy. Criticism of closures was highest in families with union members — but also in the Bronx, where closures have broken down almost all of the large high schools that were open a decade ago into small schools. Just a quarter of Bronx respondents said closure made educational sense. In Manhattan, where relatively few families have been affected by closures, support for closure was much higher, at 51 percent. And while 47 percent of respondents with children backed closure as a policy, that number was just 35 percent for parents of public school students.
The poll was conducted May 3-8, shortly after the city school board had approved the latest crop of closures, for 24 schools that would undergo a federally prescribed process known as “turnaround.” The UFT filed suit May 7 to halt turnaround, arguing that the atypical replacement plans don’t amount to closure at all.