State Senator Michael Gianaris speaks at the Long Island City High School graduation ceremony.
For two high schools that filled a large auditorium at Queens College yesterday for their graduation ceremonies, the festivities were bittersweet.
Long Island City High School and Flushing High School are among 24 city schools graduating their final cohorts before closing and reopening this summer.
Students who were enrolled in the schools this year and didn't graduate will continue to attend them. But their schools will have new names and many new teachers, in accordance with the rules of a federal school reform model called turnaround.
Earlier this year, the schools had packed their own auditoriums to protest the turnaround plans, which Mayor Bloomberg surprised them by announcing in January.
On Wednesday, the room reverberated not with chants but with applause — this time, to honor their newly-minted alumni. Yet the impending closures were not far from the minds of the graduation speakers, a mix of alumni, principals and top students, some who immigrated to the United States shortly before beginning high school.
"It is sad to know we are the last graduating class of Long Island City High School, but it is also an honor," Xi Xi Hu, Long Island City High School's valedictorian, said in her speech.
The Campaign for Fiscal Equity, the advocacy organization whose historic, years-long lawsuit brought increased funding to the New York City schools, is closing its doors — at least in its current format, The New York Times reported this afternoon.
The organization's last employee, Executive Director Helaine Doran, will leave at the end of the month because the group has run out of funding, the Times reports.
The development comes despite the fact that the dollars won by the group's lawsuit have fallen far short of what was promised in a settlement between the group and the state in 2007.
The Times is right to describe the development as part of a greater shift in the way that philanthropists think about education advocacy, one that has made groups like former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee's Students First active in New York City while the Campaign for Fiscal Equity struggled. The old mantra was that urban districts failed because they have been historically under-funded; now, advocates are more likely to argue that funding is necessary but not sufficient. (Another budget watchdog, the Educational Priorities Panel, dissolved in 2007, also due to a loss of funding.)
But it's also possible that the dissolution of CFE could actually signal a renaissance of its original efforts: litigation aimed at forcing New York to spend more on needy school districts.