News

De Blasio Administration Scraps Plans For Opening, Expanding Some Charter Schools

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration on Thursday dealt a major blow to nine schools – some of them charter schools – that were hoping to open or expand.

The mayor has decided to deny space to the schools – several of them planned by Success Academy Charter Schools – a group run by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz.

The decisions affect three existing or proposed charter schools, and six noncharter public schools.

As CBS 2’s Dick Brennan reported Thursday evening, parents were furious at the decision to take space away from the charter schools.

“It’s devastating, frustration, and it’s sad, because my daughter’s been there since kindergarten,” said parent Melissa Alvarez.

At a rally Thursday, parents said Success Academy Harlem Central, which had planned to expand, is the highest-performing middle school in Harlem.

“By taking these schools away from our children – not just my child, our children – you saying that, ‘I don’t really care about y’all,'” one mother said.

“There are failing schools all across the city,” said parent Shea Reader. “Why target us? Why target us? Don’t do that to us.”

Parents whose kids were already enrolled in Success Academy were enraged by the decision, 1010 WINS’ Eileen Lehpamer reported.

“You’re gonna make New York the 80’s again. By failing our kids,” one parent said.

More than 200 students at Success Academy Harlem Central have been sharing a building with a traditional public school.

“To have it been snatched away, honestly it frightens me, and it outages me,” said Jennifer Durant, who has three children at the Harlem school.

The city has also stopped co-locations for two other Success Academy schools that have not yet opened, at the Murry Bergtraum high school campus near City Hall, and at the August Martin High School complex in Jamaica, Queens.

While the new charter schools would have been on high school campuses, they would have served grades kindergarten through 4.

The department is also revising a proposal for the American Dream Charter School in the Bronx, reducing the amount of space for the charter school inside P.S. 30 in Mott Haven from four sections per grade to three.

Success Academy railed against the decision, saying its students are star performers despite their poverty.

“I am enraged. I am upset. I am angry beyond belief,” said parent Katharine Martinez. “I have been in the education system for nine years. I brought my son to Success Academy in third grade because I wanted more for him.”

But de Blasio said charters can hurt the public schools that have to share space with them.

“We thought some of them were either inappropriate, counterproductive; that would harm the educational possibilities for kids,” the mayor said Thursday.

De Blasio said former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration is in part to blame. Bloomberg had previously said charter schools could operate rent-free inside public school buildings – an idea that de Blasio does not endorse.

“I think it was aborrent,” de Blasio told reporters, including WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond. “I think it was done without real consultation with the parents, real consultation with the schools that were going to be affected — the receiving schools.”

In a statement, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew applauded the mayor’s decision.

“I’m glad the DOE has taken an important first step in vetoing some particularly troublesome pending co-locations,” he said. “But the solution to Bloomberg’s destructive policies … is to give local schools and communities a real say on how their buildings are used.”

But parents said education, and not politics, should be the issue.

But charter parents have had enough of politics.

“Don’t you want to see your kids and our kids succeed and go further and be a president one day, be a mayor one day?” Alvarez said. “So it’s very frustrating and confusing — like, why is this happening?”

American Dream Charter School Principal Melissa Melkonian also blasted the decision, saying the reduction in space for the school would require a cut in enrollment by 25 percent to 35 percent.

“Our school is specifically designed to target and enroll English language learners, a group of students that would benefit from a dual language program where they would use their native language as a means to improving their English language skills,” Melkonian said in a statement. “We will take this setback as an opportunity to prove our value to the community and this administration.”

In a news release, city Department of Education spokesman Devon Puglia said the decision followed a review of 49 proposals for city schools, all of which were approved at the very end of  Bloomberg’s administration.

“While there are examples where it can be effective, overall we have heard concerns from high school communities, as well as elementary level ones, about this practice,” Puglia said in the release. “We believe high school campuses should serve high school students.”

Second, there was concern that all new schools should have the resources they need, and very small new schools with fewer than 250 students may not be able to afford to serve students effectively, Puglia said.

Finally, some of the proposals would have required major renovation and capital work, and would have displaced existing schools’ capacities to make room the new school programs, Puglia said.

In addition to the decisions affecting charter schools, the city has scrapped plans for the following noncharter public schools:

• The opening of a new public high school on the campus of John Dewey High School in Gravesend, Brooklyn

• The opening of a new public high school on the campus of Long Island City High School in Queens

• The opening of a new middle school on the campus of P.S. 96 Joseph Lanzetta in East Harlem

• The expansion of Central Park East II Elementary School in East Harlem from grades kindergarten through 5 to grades kindergarten through 8

• The opening of a public new middle school on the campus of existing school P.S. 335 Granville T. Woods in Crown Heights, Brooklyn

• The opening of a new career and technical education high school and junior college program at University Neighborhood High School on the Lower East Side.

De Blasio was taking issue with letting charter schools use city public school property rent free as far back as the mayoral campaign last fall.

At an October debate with Republican opponent Joe Lhota, de Blasio said charter schools often “dislocate” the needs of the traditional public schools that most New York City pupils attend.

He argued further that when it came to use of city property, “the wealthy ones should pay rent; ones that don’t have a lot of money shouldn’t.”

For his part, Lhota, who lost to de Blasio in a landslide last fall, accused de Blasio of trying to “annihilate” charter schools.

On Tuesday, charter school supporters launched a multimillion-dollar, multipart ad campaign in a bid to pressure de Blasio to soften his posture on charters and to convince state lawmakers to side with them. But the mayor held firm, saying he needs to concentrate resources on the 95 percent of city students in public schools.

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