NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Lawsuits are being filed this week over Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to move charter school students out of public school space.
Parents are filing in federal court, accusing de Blasio of violating students’ civil rights when he decided to deny space to the Success Academy charter school in Harlem.
“We want educational justice. We want access to educational excellence and opportunity,” said Eva Moskowitz, founder of Success Academy. “This is not just about the 194 scholars that we love, this is not just about Harlem Central, this is about our city, our state and our country.
“Are we going to get mired it politics? Is it going to be about kids or is it going to be about ideology?” Moskowitz added.
Many parents shared the that sentiment.
“For this to be the land of milk and honey, this is America, you have to beg for a good education? That’s a shame,” one parent said.
Two additional lawsuits are also being filed with the state education commissioner in Albany. Those suits challenge de Blasio’s reversal of a promise made by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg to allocate space for Success Academy locations in Harlem and two others in Queens and lower Manhattan that were scheduled to open in the fall.
“My daughter has been here for five years,” parent Josefina Calcano told CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer. “And knowing that there’s no place for her to go is devastating. I’m devastated about the whole situation. It’s appalling. I can’t believe it’s happening.”
“These teachers care about our kids and they want to teach them and make sure they learn what they need to know,” parent Lakisha Evans said. “I’ve very devastated. I can’t believe Bill de Blasio is doing this to us.”
“I just simply don’t understand why George is being evicted from his school. The school that has given me so much pride and joy to send my child to every single day,” another parent said.
Over the weekend, de Blasio reversed course and promised to find space for displaced charter school students.
“Remember the 45 proposed co-locations carried over from the Bloomberg administration? We agreed to 36, we disagreed with nine,” de Blasio said Monday. “I think that any judge that looks at it is going to see that we were very balanced and objective.”
De Blasio’s aides have said by denying Success Academy space, the mayor is trying to prevent the loss of special education seats.
In a statement, the Department of Education said: “In our decisions, we set consistent, objective, common sense standards — most importantly protecting students with disabilities.”
Former New York Gov. George Pataki has joined in the chorus criticizing de Blasio for his efforts against charter schools.
Pataki has been called the father of the city’s charter school movement. He pushed through the first charter school law in 1998.
“It’s just really, in my view, unconscionable because what is happening is it’s all about control, it’s all about ideology. And education, public education, should be about one thing. And that is what’s best for the children in those schools,” Pataki told WCBS 880’s Steve Scott on Monday. “It’s unquestionable that charter schools help enhance the educational opportunity of children.”
The former governor added the charters serve an important role, particularly in areas with underperforming traditional public schools.
“Charter schools are public schools but they’re allowed to operate under different rules, try different approaches to education and if they succeed, they’re allowed to continue. If they don’t succeed, they’re shut down — unlike failing schools in the traditional government monopoly model,” said the former governor. “We have seen a number of charter schools do very well, we have seen student performance improve and this is something that is no longer even questioned.”
Pataki noted charters have been successful nationwide and have the support of President Barack Obama.
“Everyone is saying we should expand charter school opportunities except here in New York where we have a mayor who’s hellbent on cutting them off at the knees and denying children this important educational opportunity,” he told Scott.
Pataki warned of potential widespread impacts if de Blasio’s actions are carried out.
“Ultimately, the risk is we will go back to a government-run, bureaucrat-run, monopolistic public system that too often fails our children, as it has for far too long in this city,” said the former governor.
“Education is our future. We all know that,” Pataki told Scott. “We also know that our public schools are not doing the job that needs to be done to prepare students for this great 21st Century. Charter schools have shown that they can and to undercut that for blind power over ideological reasons…is simply wrong.”
Meanwhile, opponents of charter schools are also planning their own lawsuit, WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reported. New York City Public Advocate Letitia James said she thinks the mayor has already approved too many co-locations. The opponents’ ad blitz will go up against a well-financed campaign that has been hitting newspapers and the airwaves for several weeks.
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