Huffpost New York

NYC Panel On Education Votes To Close 18 Schools; Teachers Union, Occupy Wall Street Protest (VIDEO)

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A crowd of 2,000 packed into the auditorium at Brooklyn Technical High School Thursday night to protest the city's plan to close 23 schools.

CBS New York reports, however, that despite the boisterous demonstration (which often drowned out the voices of Mayor Bloomberg, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, and other speakers), the Panel for Education Policy still voted to close 18 schools and eliminate the middle school grades at five others.

"People are getting fed up," teachers union president Michael Mulgrew told The New York Daily News. "They're sick and tired of schools being blamed for the failure of the city."

A large contingent representing the teachers union were joined by Occupy Wall Street protesters who carried signs, jeered and employed the "human microphone." At times, the crowd broke into chants of "You walked out," referring to failed negotiations between the city and the union over teachers evaluations.

Chancellor Walcott blamed the teachers union for disrupting the hearing. "There are important proposals up for discussion," he said. "If all the [teachers union] wants to do is bus in Occupy Wall Street protesters ... then we will just have to work around that."

In January, Bloomberg and Walcott defended their approach. From NY1:

"We have no choice because these schools are so ineffective, you have them at single-digit proficiency levels in some places," said Bloomberg.

"This process will continue and move forward, and so as the mayor indicated, we're very serious about this," said Walcott. "This is not a threat, this is not union negotiations, labor negotiations as far as these 33 schools."

The teachers who will lose their positions at the schools will still be part of the system, because union rules keep the mayor from firing them. They will serve as substitutes, costing more than $100 million a year.

Bloomberg said it is the cost of fixing education, but the teachers union said he is destroying schools, not saving them.

Since 2002, the Bloomberg administration has closed 117 schools and opened 396, according to The Daily News.