Monday, December 10, 2007

Freedom of Speech Is Slavery

The NY Sun reports that one of the city's oldest independent educational watchdog groups - the Educational Priorities Panel - is closing because Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein have created an environment where criticism of their educational policies is not tolerated.

The city contracts out a huge number of services to community groups. Many of these groups will not criticize city policy for fear of losing city contracts or losing funds from other groups that receive city contracts.

According to the Sun, the closing of the EPP next month reflects both trends:

The longtime executive director of EPP, Noreen Connell, said one challenge was the number of members who stopped participating in advocacy efforts after the mayor took control of the schools. "A lot of the people who were contractors or very close to the Bloomberg administration were not participating in EPP any longer," she said.

A member of EPP who represented the Presbytery of New York City, Cecilia Blewer, said member groups' discomfort with taking a hard line against certain policies led the EPP to dampen some criticism — and, on some issues, such as mayoral control of the schools, to avoid speaking out altogether. "There was a timidity that didn't used to be there," Ms. Blewer said. At the same time, outside support also dissolved.

The president of the teachers union, Randi Weingarten, said EPP's dissolution is a punishment for speaking plainly. Reports from the group have objected to the Department of Education's new per-student funding formula, criticized its move to empower school principals as treating them too much like private contractors, and characterized claims that the city is pushing more money into classrooms as overstated.

"They actually spoke truth to power, and I think they got hurt for it," Ms. Weingarten, said.

Bloomberg supporters claim EPP's closing has more to do with the group "wrapping itself so tightly around the 'more money for schools issue'," that once that lawsuit was won and the state was forced to give more money to city schools, the group was no longer relevant.


Or perhaps the word is out that if you say anything bad about Big Brother Bloomberg and his education policies, the no-bid contracts the city loves to dole out to contractors and vendors will be at risk.

It's not exactly like Bloomberg is saying you can't criticize him or his policies.

He's simply saying you may not want to criticize him or his policies if you want to do business with the city or receive funds from other groups that do business with the city.
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