NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – As many as 17,000 parents, students and educators took part in a rally Tuesday in support of New York City’s charter schools.
Wearing shirts that said “Charter Schools Are Public Schools” and “My Child, My Choice,” protesters marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall.
Many charter school parents and teachers are upset over some proposals by Democratic mayoral nominee Bill de Blasio, which include ending the practice of allowing charter schools to share space in buildings with traditional public schools.
“We’re really excited to have parents from across the city standing unified for a demand that great schools, particularly great public charter schools, deserve support in the next administration,” organizer Jeremiah Kittridge with Families for Excellent Schools said.
De Blasio’s stance on charter schools has many parents worried.
“I’m here to fight for the charter schools,” parent Mike Toney told CBS 2′s Marcia Kramer. “I think Bill de Blasio should change his mind. I voted for him the first time, I don’t think I’m going to vote for him the next time.”
“I’m marching for kids like my son Joey, who are stuck in a school, not doing well and parents that are looking for other options,” parent Joe Herrera told WCBS 880′s Alex Silverman.
“Charter schools are special,” another parent told 1010 WINS’ Stan Brooks.
“Why penalize us by charging us rent when we’re already underfunded,” a mother told Silverman.
“Bill de Blasio, he needs to calm down and give our kids a break,” parent Sheila Snipes added. “It should be equal for everybody.”
De Blasio also wants to charge charters rent for government-owned space. But school operators said they’ll be forced to close their door if they have to pay rent.
“Your school may not be able to afford rent, and frankly, if you’re in fourth grade without a current middle school, you may be forced into a zone school that’s not meeting your needs,” Kittredge said.
Kittredge said he hopes the march will send a message to the mayoral candidate.
“To the extent that the next mayor may be him, we want him to hear us loud and clear,” Kittredge said. “A public demand that the great charter schools across the city be supported.
Charter schools are privately run, publicly funded schools.
Kramer reported there are about 120,000 public school students currently attending charter schools in New York City, meaning tens of thousands of parents and grandparents could come out to vote on Election Day.
Three out of four charter school students live in high poverty areas and black and Hispanic students make up 90 percent of charter school classes, Kramer reported.
Also attending the rally was Republican candidate Joe Lhota, who has said he strongly supports charter schools and believes the city needs more of them.
“People who go to charter schools are from the inner city, they’re part of one part of Bill’s ‘Tale of Two Cities,’ and this is the tale that needs the most,” Lhota said. “He basically is lending a deaf ear.”
“He’s flat-out wrong. When you look at the children who are going to charter schools, 92 percent of them are minority students who the parents don’t have a choice. This is the most important thing in their life for the parents to be able make sure that their children get a proper education,” Lhota added.
De Blasio defended his position, saying charter schools are only 5 percent of the city student population and that he wants to focus on the majority.
De Blasio also said he won’t favor charters the way Mayor Michael Bloomberg did.
“Why not? Because first of all, the numbers demand it. We have to focus on where the greatest impact would be. Second, some of what happened just wasn’t fair,” said de Blasio.
His campaign reiterates that he wants them to pay rent and that he wants a moratorium on co-locating charter schools in public school buildings.
De Blasio said that there were some charter schools that were already funded but they still received city money. He also said there were others that hadn’t done as well and he wants to reevaluate their progress.
A recent Siena poll shows a majority of New Yorkers want more charter schools.
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