NEW YORK (Reuters) - Twenty-four people, including two members of the New York City Council, were arrested on Monday at a protest over plans to close two dozen city schools, authorities said.
Charles Barron and Jumaane Williams, City Council members from Brooklyn, were arrested along with 22 other adults after the group formed a human chain across Chambers St. in downtown Manhattan outside the city’s Department of Education headquarters.
The group, some of whom wore signs saying “Fix schools, don’t close them,” was protesting plans to close 25 schools ahead of this week’s meetings of the Panel for Educational Policy.
“It’s not our fault that John F. Kennedy (school) is below standard. It’s the Department of Education’s fault,” said one student, who claimed that the school was “set up” to be closed years ago when officials started “dumping” low performing and special needs students there.
The arrested protesters were being held on charges of disorderly conduct pending issuance of summonses or court appearances, police said.
The acts of civil disobedience followed an earlier rally by students of schools targeted for closing, along with parents and education activists.
The demonstration was the latest of a series of protests in recent weeks over the proposed school closings, which unions say are the most ever in New York City.
The Panel for Educational Policy is an oversight group with a majority of members appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose offices assumed control of the school system in 2002.
Critics of the plan to shut what the city calls failing schools say it masks a move to usher in more charter schools.
Such schools receive public money but are exempt from certain rules that apply to other public schools due to higher accountability in standards set by their charters. The schools often have long waiting lists.
Deputy schools chancellor Marc Sternberg defended the planned closings last week, telling a city council member: “When we feel the supports we’ve given to a school are not getting the job done ... we are going to consider every intervention possible.”
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