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MEDIA WATCH: In New York, newspapers note that homelessness and poverty are indicators of low test scores, while Chicago media simply get ready for the ninth year of cheerleading teacher bashing school closing attacks

While most of Chicago's corporate media are lining up for the eighth year in a row to praise the Board of Education for showing "courage" in closing what corporate America calls "failing" schools, New York's largest circulation daily newspaper ran some numbers that are not in the school system's "matrix" and discovered a significant fact: the schools on the closing list in New York have seen an explosion of homelessness.

Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Arne Duncan (above center) was promoting school closings and charter schools at an April 7, 2008, media event at what was left of Englewood High School in Chicago. The event was organized by Duncan to promote what he has been calling "innovation" through charter schools and to announce RFPs (Requests for Proposals) for another round of charter schools to be placed in public school properties that Duncan was ruthlessly closing during his years as CPS CEO. A key to Duncan's ability to bash the city's public schools were educational "entrepreneurs" and conservatives like the two individuals standing behind Duncan in the above photograph. On the left is Tim King, who started the "Urban Prep" charter schools in the corpse of Chicago's Englewood High School. Despite pleas from the Englewood staff that they were serving a growing number of severely impoverished students when Duncan proposed the closing in 2007, the media narrative ignored the the fact that the problems faced by Englewood were caused primarily by the conditions under which the students lived. Tim King's Urban Prep, which is now in the Englewood building, replaced the most at risk students who had been attending Englewood with a select group. On the right in the above photograph is Phyllis Lockett, who heads a private group called the "Renaissance Schools Fund," one of the primary promoters of charter schools replacing public schools in Chicago. Like Tim King, Phyllis Lockett and her $50 million group ignore the impact of poverty, scapegoat the public schools and teachers, and promote privatization with the full support of corporate America. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. On the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the New York Daily News ran some numbers that were not on the official agenda of the administration of the New York City Department of Education (DOE) for claiming that it is schools — and not the society that produces massive poverty and homeless children — causing the problem.

The entire story follows:

Number of homeless students jumps 100% at 19 of 20 schools on shutdown list, BY RACHEL MONAHAN AND MEREDITH KOLODNER, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS, Monday, January 18th 2010, 4:00 AM.

At 19 of the 20 schools that the Education Department announced last month it plans to shut down, the number of homeless kids jumped by more than 100%.

All but one of the city schools slated for closure were grappling with more than failing test scores last year - they also saw a massive spike in homeless students.

The increase swamped social workers and left principals scrambling for after-school funding to give kids a place to go after classes ended, teachers and administrators say.

At Public School 332 in Bushwick,Brooklyn, there were 95 homeless children enrolled last year - close to one in five students. That's up from just 23 the year before.

"It's not just about academics," said Vanecia Wilson, a science teacher at PS332. "They come in with a lot of stress."

Her school runs an after-school program that serves dinner and provides tutoring. The constant turnover can make it hard for the children to keep up, Wilson said.

Children start in the middle of the semester and sometimes disappear when they transfer shelters.

The number of homeless students at the Paul Robeson High School in > Crown Heights, Brooklyn, grew to 156 last year — about 13% of the student body. That's up from 16 students the previous year.

"The school takes on even more of a family role for the child, encouraging them to keep going," said student affairs coordinator Stefanie Siegel. "Academic success can be hard to keep on the front of the table because you're just trying to keep the students stable."

The number of homeless students rose citywide last year, as the economic crisis cloaked the city. But the spike at all but one of the closing schools far exceeded the 20% citywide average.

"The [Education Department] has taken aggressive action to help address the profound challenges faced by students in temporary housing," department spokesman Danny Kanner said.

The Panel for Educational Policy will vote Jan. 26 on whether to approve the shutdown of the 20 schools deemed failing by the Education Department.

Jevommey, a ninth-grader at Christopher Columbus High School in the Bronx, began living in a shelter last June. "It can be hard to do your homework because there's no privacy," said Jevommey, 17, who travels two hours to Columbus from a shelter in Brooklyn. "The classes are nice. I didn't want to change schools."

"It's so difficult for the child," said Christine Rowland, an English teacher at Columbus, where the number of homeless students soared by almost 200%. "Lots of students think of this school as a home, but for some, it's more of a first home than a second home."

mkolodner@nydailynews.com 



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