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Advocates fuel school-by-school preemptive effort on closures

Education activists continued their preemptive assault against the city’s school closure policy today.

No closure announcements have been made yet this year, but the Department of Education has already alerted 20 elementary and middle schools that they could be closed due to low performance. And some of those schools have begun pushing back.

The tour began last week in Bedford-Stuyvesant at P.S. 256 and resumed today on the Lower East Side at P.S. 137, a declining school that received an F on its most recent progress report. Just after dismissal this afternoon, about two dozen parents and their children sounded a familiar protest: Budget cuts and a history of neglect are failing P.S. 137 students, not their teachers or Principal Melissa Rodriguez.

That argument matches what two advocacy groups that are behind the early organizing efforts, the Alliance for Quality for Education and Coalition of Educational Justice, have been saying for years. Arguing that struggling schools would be better served by additional resources, the groups oppose all school closures. This fall, they expect to stage more protests at other schools on the DOE’s “early engagement” list, according to Julian Vinocur of AQE.

At P.S. 137 today, City Councilwoman Margaret Chin and the president of District’s Community Education Council, Lisa Donlan, joined protesters to pledge to support the school, which they said was a “family school” and part of the community.

P.S. 137 has lost nearly $375,000 in budget cuts since 2008, in line with cuts around the city. It got an A on its progress report two years ago, when test scores statewide were highly inflated, but dropped to an F this year. Donlan said the school’s decline began in 2005, when it was moved into the P.S. 134 building and started losing enrollment. In six years, the school gone from 449 to 232 students.