If you are a parent of a school aged child in New York City school system [ New York City Department of Education ] please read immediately.
Last October, schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña testified in front of the New York State Assembly Education Committee and attempted to justify the continuation of New York City’s failing Renewal School program.
Unfortunately, the core of her argument was based on a lie: the claim that chronic absenteeism rates at these struggling Renewal Schools had dropped from 25.3 percent to 23.9 percent between the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years.
These numbers seemed too good to be true, but Fariña’s Department of Education continued to assert their accuracy, even reporting the false absenteeism rates to the New York State Department of Education in February and April. Only in July did parents and the public learn the truth — and it didn’t come from anyone at Tweed or City Hall.
The Post revealed that chronic absenteeism rates were much higher than Fariña had claimed, and the city now says the actual absentee rate is just under 40 percent.
The city scrambled to write off this huge discrepancy as a clerical error. In reality, it’s just another example of the de Blasio administration cooking the books on the progress, integrity and safety of city district schools. Unless the comptroller, public advocate or state Education Department quickly decides to conduct a thorough audit of the Department of Education, students, parents and teachers are at risk of losing an entire school year to this kind of deception.
Four major pieces of news over the last month — from the chronic absenteeism scandal to fake course credits, stories of bullying and revelations that the lead levels in school water are likely higher than tests indicated — amount to a crisis proving that the Department of Education refuses to tell the truth.
In addition to twisting data about absenteeism at Renewal Schools, the DOE has deceived families about the quality of their children’s education by failing to discipline 36 schools that awarded credits to students in inappropriate and illegitimate ways.
Each of these schools found creative ways to help students get credits without actually earning them — like giving out credits for non-credit classes. But instead of taking steps to curb this phenomenon, the DOE let 26 of the 36 schools off the hook entirely and only assigned monitors to the remaining 10.
It would be bad enough if the administration’s lies ended here, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Over the summer, lead test results indicated that less than 1 percent of the water samples from over 1,500 school buildings across the city contained a harmful amount of lead.
These seemingly impressive results concealed the truth, which was later uncovered by the New York Times: All of the schools ran their water for two hours in advance of the test, eliminating most lead from the water and skewing the results of the test.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and the DOE have also crafted a false narrative around the epidemic of violence in the city’s district schools. The de Blasio administration has denied the ongoing crisis of school violence for months, and has under-reported bullying data for years.
Last week, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman released an analysis confirming this pattern and called on schools to more comprehensively report instances of bullying against their students. According to Schneiderman’s office, a full 71 percent of district schools across the city didn’t report any such incidents during the 2013-2014 school year — meaning that thousands of bullied kids never had their stories told and never got the help they needed.
Not only do these cases reveal the truth about city district schools, they expose the de Blasio administration’s misplaced priorities. Appearances are everything for the mayor and the DOE, and they’re committed to painting a rosy picture of city schools even if it means shirking responsibility and hurting the students they’re supposed to protect.
There’s still time to right the wrongs de Blasio and his DOE have inflicted on New York City families, but the city needs to act fast. Students, parents and teachers can’t possibly spend another school year listening to a constant stream of lies from the man who’s supposed to be the steward of our schools. And they shouldn’t have to.
Jeremiah Kittredge is CEO of Families for Excellent Schools.