New York City’s education system serves over a million students. It is both the largest school district in the country and the most segregated. NYC public schools have long struggled to adequately and equitably educate students. Under Mayor Bloomberg’s administration, from 2000 to 2012, the NYC Department of Education began to close schools it considered “failures.” About 100 schools were closed during those twelve years. When Mayor De Blasio took office in 2014, he created an ambitious program to reform NYC schools called the Renewal Program. However, in 2019, that program was halted. Renewal resulted in the closure or consolidation of twenty three schools.

School closure hurts students and it disproportionally hurts students of color.

Bloomberg and De Blasio implemented discriminatory policies. They must be held accountable for their failures and for the harms they have caused.

Chesnot/Getty Images
Chesnot/Getty Images

In a series of interrelated opinion pieces, complemented by an interactive map, this project explores NYC school reforms during Bloomberg and De Blasio’s tenure.

In her piece, De Blasio, Bloomberg’s prodigal son, Sithara Kumar details the failure of the Renewal Program. She argues the program was haphazardly rolled out, chaotic and rife with miscommunications. While perhaps well-intentioned, the plan ended up costing both the city an astronomic monetary sum and students their futures.

Tina Haertel’s piece, Consistency over closure, asks the fundamental question: is NYC the right place to raise children and send them to public school? Reviewing the history of education policy, and the turmoil radical policy changes have caused students, she calls for consistency and stability.

Adrian Silk’s Op-Ed, The School Renewal Program made a promise it couldn’t keep, now what?, details the systematic failure of de Blasio’s renewal program to address racial inequality in New York City schools. Silk describes the flawed evaluative system Renewal used to grade schools, students and teachers. He calls for a radical change in the terminology used to label and evaluate schools.

Nora Salitan’s Op-Ed, School Closure doesn’t work. What does? argues that school closure is not an education reform and should be scrapped from legislator’s policy toolbox. Further, she claims that many of the issues confronting NYC schools today trace back to a history of residential segregation and economic equality. She calls for reforms that address and understand that history.

In an effort to connect our Op-Eds and provide context, our interactive map demonstrates how De Blasio’s school renewal plan was racialized and disproportionately affected Black students in low-income neighborhoods. The visualization of this data demonstrates the human cost of the school renewal program and shows how it is rooted in a history of segregation. It also answers questions about whether NYC is the right place for a school renewal program.

Ultimately, we find that school closure generally, and Renewal specifically, are not viable policies for fixing NYC’s public education system.

Please consider reading the Op-Eds pieces in the order they are presented before viewing our interactive map.