NEW YORK—Hundreds of people rallied Thursday against privileges granted by the state to New York City charter schools in this year’s budget. The law will give charters unlimited access to new spaces, even if it means hurting the rest of the school system, participants said.
Gathering on the steps of the New York Public Library, the protesters were joined by a few elected officials, several non-profits, and teachers and parents. Many of them stand to be affected by the change in the charter school law.
“We do not want a separate and unequal school system in New York City,” shouted usually mild-mannered Daniel Dromm, chair of the City Council Education Committee, to the cheering crowd.
Mindy Rosier is special education teacher who spoke at the rally. Her school, P811M Mickey Mantle, will lose three classrooms, a speech therapy room, and a resolution room to accommodate grade expansion of the Success Academy Harlem 4 now scheduled to move into the space in September.
Rosier said the change would close down the whole site, as without therapy rooms they won’t be able to provide proper services and would be breaking city regulations.
Mickey Mantle is spread over four sites. The site facing the space cuts serves 110 severely disabled children, often with motion disorders or severe autism. Rosier said the other sites have no space to accommodate the students who would be displaced.
Not everyone at the state level agrees with the change.
“This was a terrible decision,” New York state Senator Liz Kruger (D-Manhattan) said of the budget bill. “This was a short-term decision that we have to overturn.”
De Blasio promised in his campaign to change city rules for allowing new schools share space in public school buildings. Such practice is called co-location. Majority of charter schools in the city are co-located.
The mayor also promised to charge rent for the space already given away to affluent charter operators, specifically Success Academy, the biggest charter operator in the city with 22 schools.
After taking office, the mayor had reviewed the last slew of the Bloomberg administration’s co-locations. Out of 17 charter school proposals, three were denied, all for schools from the Success Academy network. Five other Success Academy proposals were granted.
But the state senate came up with a budget bill changing the charter school law so that no request for space from a charter school in the New York City can be denied. The city has to provide space in a public school building for free, or pay for a private space. Gov. Cuomo signed the bill into a law.
That means that despite the mayor’s decision, the three charter school co-locations will go as originally planned.
Money in Play
When de Blasio nixed the three co-locations for Success Academy schools, charter advocacy organization Families for Excellent Schools launched a media campaign worth at least $4 million, saying the mayor wants to displace 194 students from Success Academy Harlem 4.
In response, de Blasio promised to find a new space for the students. Success Academy would have to approve the alternative space under the new law.
Rally organizer Noah Gotbaum said the governor fawn over charter school lobbyists in exchange for campaign contributions.
Cuomo received almost $400,000 from supporters of Success Academy, including $65,000 from Eva Moskowitz’s political action committee, Great Public Schools, according to ChalkBeat.org.
Correction: The article was updated to reflect that Success Academy would have to approve any alternative space offered by the city. It was also corrected to reflect that Families for Excellent Schools was in fact the organization launching the above mentioned media campaign. An incorrect statement about Senator Liz Kruger was removed.