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Poll: Few NYers see school closures as sound education policy

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.

The complete breakdown of how the poll’s 1,066 respondents answered the school closure question is below. The poll had a margin of error of 3 percent.

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