NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — It was a sea of red in Foley Square on Thursday — a message from parents and students to Mayor Bill de Blasio that they are seeing red over the poor quality of New York City public schools.
The musician Questlove joined approximately 21,000 students and parents at the demonstration in downtown Manhattan, just blocks from City Hall.
The Success Academy chain started classes late so children could attend the rally.
Participants wore red T-shirts with the slogan “Don’t steal possible,” and held up signs that read “Great schools now” and “Kids can’t wait.”
Denesha Gaffney, of Brooklyn, said her first-grader is doing well at Success Academy Cobble Hill. She said lots of public school students are failing and “charter schools could use that space.”
“I’m here because I want better schools for all children,” parent Jerri Pierre said. “Everyone deserves a chance.”
“Here’s what scares me: We know the reality for black men,” said parent Ebony Burrowes. “If my son continues in a school that closes doors for him, I face the reality of him becoming a statistic. I face visiting my son in prison. I face burying my son.”
“Our school system is in crisis. There are over 200 schools where 90 percent of the students don’t know math or even how to write their name,” South Bronx parent and grandparent Sandra DeJesus added.
“The current educational system in New York City is flawed,” Nataki Crooks, of Canarsie, Brooklyn, told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond. “As a matter of fact, it is broken. It has failed our communities, and it has failed our kids.”
The rally was organized by Families for Excellent Schools, which said 143,000 of the city’s 1.1 million public school students are trapped in “failing” schools, where nine out of 10 fail English and math.
“I’m shocked to say that more than 143,000 students citywide are stuck in failing schools; that’s not a statistic, that’s a crisis,” Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez said.
Families for Excellent Schools’ Jeremiah Kittredge said the organization wants city and state leaders to come up with a plan to ensure no child is stuck in a failing school.
“It’s incredibly important that as the city weighs a number of important decisions over the next couple of weeks and months about the issue of failing schools that parents voices are heard,” Kittredge said.
The rally was on behalf of all students, whether they go to charter schools or public schools, but it was clearly designed to put pressure on Mayor de Blasio to approve more charters in public school buildings, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported.
De Blasio released a video Thursday morning to counter the rally.
“When it comes to education, the answer is not to find an escape route that some can follow and others can’t,” de Blasio says. “The answer is to fix the entire system.”
Zaika Ansari, director of the Alliance for Quality Education, said the rally was nothing more than a well-funded, politically motivated stunt.
“They don’t live on the ground, and their mission and goal is to privatize the system,” Ansari told Diamond. “It’s clear that’s why they wanted to have a big rally and put black and brown parents at the forefront of this.”
The rally came one year after a similar event, when charter supporters marched across the Brooklyn Bridge.
You May Also Be Interested In These Stories:
[display-posts category=”news” wrapper=”ul” posts_per_page=”4″]
(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)