City Council Speaker and likely 2013 mayoral candidate Christine Quinn is the latest public official to throw her support behind an effort to keep Bushwick Community High School from closing under the city’s federally-funded turnaround plans.
A Quinn spokesman said today that representatives for her office have been lobbying the Department of Education in the last week to remove the embattled transfer school from the list of 26 schools being voted for closure at tomorrow’s Panel for Educational Policy.
Like the school’s other supporters, Quinn’s office got involved because she “believes in the idea of transfer schools,” said the spokesman, Justin Goodman. “The metrics that are being used to close schools shouldn’t apply to transfer schools because they’re a completely different model.”
Quinn’s lobbying efforts against a school slated to close is unusual. A City Council speaker rarely gets involved in individual school closures, leaving those fights up to council members who represent the local district where a school is housed.
But Quinn has actually withheld speaking out about High School for Graphic Communications, a Hell’s Kitchen school in her district that’s also on the chopping block.
Traditionally, Quinn has stayed out of fights with the city over its education policies and she has remained especially mum on school closures. Quinn didn’t attend a press conference in January where 2013 Democratic candidates decried Bloomberg handling of mayoral control. Instead, a spokesman passed around statement that lauded Bloomberg’s small schools movement. Quinn was also absent from a panel last week that discussed alternatives to the city’s approach to school closures because she disagreed with a policy paper released by the event’s host, Coalition of Educational Justice.
Goodman said that her office was supporting Bushwick Community because it was unique from the other schools on the list.
Bushwick Community has become a cause célèbre in recent weeks after Michael Powell dedicated each of his last two New York Times columns to the school’s plight. The school has received a broad base of support, including from a top official at the Department of Education.
The transfer school’s low graduation rates were the lone measurement used when the state added it to a “persistently lowest achieving” list, opening the door to the possibility of closure. But the school enrolls only older students who have dropped out of traditional high schools and returned to school with significantly fewer credits than most kids their age. They stand little chance of graduating within the four- and six-year guidelines set by federal accountability measures, a dragnet that state education officials have since moved to change.
With less than 24 hours before the panel is set to vote on the school closures, supporters said today that Quinn’s office was among the dozens of elected officials that they’ve been calling in recent days to rally last minute support.
“It’s an urgent plea at this point, but we’re still hoping,” said Jesus Gonzalez, an organizer with Make the Road New York.