Public Advocate: DOE Mishandling School Closings And Co-locations

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A report released today by Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and the nonprofit advocacy group Alliance for Quality Education charges the Department of Education (DOE) with inadequately communicating with parents about crucial school-closing and co-location decisions.

Parents surveyed for the report say that when DOE elects to close or co-locate a school within a public school building, they often don’t fully understand the impact, because the DOE’s Educational Impact Statements don’t clearly explain it. The study reports that parents are concerned about how co-locations will affect their children’s access to shared school spaces, like cafeterias and gyms.

The United Federation of Teachers, the NAACP and others sued the DOE over their educational impact statements, a move that halted the closure of 19 city schools. Nearly two-thirds of the parents surveyed said the EIS was less than helpful; many were not aware of (or did not read) the statements, but those who did said the statements did not itemize or reflect actual changes in specific schools. An overwhelming majority of parents, 70 percent, responded that they would like parent-community engagement to improve.

The report recommends that the DOE increase its transparency and address in the EIS statements the concerns of high-need populations, like English language learners and special-education students. Additionally, the report suggests that school-based building councils, which currently contain only principals, be widened to include school administrators, teachers and parents.

An additional recommendation would require a broad, potentially controversial, policy change within DOE: The report says DOE should develop “uniform standards” for co-location and school closure that will not impede host-school growth, and encourages the New York State Education Department and the state Legislature to monitor DOE.