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On school closures, Brooklyn is a “no”

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz says his appointee to the Panel for Educational Policy will vote against the city’s plan to close 20 schools tonight, if it isn’t tabled first.

Markowitz’s appointee, Gbubemi Okotieuro, is planning to introduce a resolution calling for the panel to delay its vote on school closures until the Department of Education publishes more information about the criteria it used in selecting the schools.

The resolution (below) would postpone the vote until Chancellor Joel Klein gives the Independent Budget Office the DOE’s phase-out criteria, as well as a description of efforts it made to turn the schools around. In Markowitz’s preferred scenario, the IBO would become an Advisory Committee on School Utilization to the PEP and the panel’s vote would be delayed by at least three months.

The IBO released a report on the proposed school closings yesterday that compared the schools slated for closure to others throughout the city. Generally, the analysis found that while the 20 schools are among the city’s lowest performing, they are not all the worst of the worst. The report also looked at overcrowding and demographics and determined that the schools the DOE wants to close did experience more overcrowding several years ago than other schools did and have greater concentrations of high needs students.

Markowitz has one of 13 votes on the panel, which is dominated by Mayor Bloomberg’s eight appointees, but he already has the support of other borough appointees. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has also called for the panel to delay its vote, as has Queens appointee Dmytro Fedkowskyj. Joining him today is the Queens delegation, though Borough President Helen Marshall is noticeably absent.

Markowitz’s resolution:

Resolution Regarding Significant Changes in School Utilization

WHEREAS, pursuant to Educational Law § 2590-g the Panel for Educational Policy has the power and duty to approve proposals for all school closures or significant changes in utilization including the phaseout, grade reconfiguration, re-siting, or co-location of schools; and

WHEREAS, the Chancellor recommends that the Panel for Educational Policy approve the phaseout of twenty schools listed in Appendix A, attached hereto; and

WHEREAS, the mandated Proposals for Significant Changes in School Utilization for each of the twenty schools listed in Appendix A use different sets of school closing criteria; and

WHEREAS, year-to-year comparisons of school Progress Reports have been rendered impossible due to changes in scale score cutoffs from 2007-08 to 2008-09; now therefore be it

RESOLVED, that the Panel for Educational Policy table the aforementioned twenty school phaseout resolutions until the Chancellor provides the Independent Budget Office with the phaseout criteria and description of efforts to help these schools avoid closure, at least three months prior to requesting Panel for Educational Policy vote; and be it further

RESOLVED, that in accordance with Education Law Section § 402-a, the Independent Budget Office be appointed to serve as an Advisory Committee on School Utilization to the Panel for Educational Policy and provide a report analyzing the Chancellor’s recommendations according to the statutory factors including but not limited to whether these schools meet the requisite school closing criteria, whether they received the resources necessary to avoid closure, and the possible impact of such action on other schools.

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