Charter Parents Furious at de Blasio Administration’s Broken Promise to Provide Middle School Space
Success Academy – November 2, 2016
November 2, 2016
Ann Powell, (646) 894-6407
Brian Whitley, (510) 495-5542
CHARTER PARENTS FURIOUS AT DE BLASIO ADMINISTRATION’S BROKEN PROMISES TO PROVIDE MIDDLE SCHOOL SPACE
After two years of bureaucratic dithering, the city delivers another temporary, stop-gap solution designed to thwart charter growth and discourage parents.
New York, NY – Hours before furious parents from two Success Academy schools were to hold a press conference to demand a response from the de Blasio administration, the Department of Education hurriedly issued its proposal. After months of waiting, parents and Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz emphatically rejected the offer as inadequate. Instead of providing permanent space for grades 5-8, as they promised, the DOE recycled another temporary plan to squeeze children from five Success elementary schools in two middle schools. Parents took to the steps of City Hall to demand better.
There are five Success schools in Brooklyn that still need space for middle school. They enroll 500 current students whose anxious families have no idea where they will go in the fall.
After months of stonewalling, city officials proposed late last night a stop-gap solution that completely disregards student and family needs, as well as educational requirements. The proposal falls far short of what these middle schools will need when enrollment grows, as it will in a year or two. Families are demanding a permanent solution — rather than being forced to protest every year as their schools outgrow a series of temporary sites.
Parents from SA Williamsburg and SA Cobble Hill, who were forced to rally in 2014 just to obtain temporary space, are furious that Mayor de Blasio again refuses to listen to them.
“The fact that it’s gotten to this point is outrageous,” said Amie Sepaniak, an SA Williamsburg mom. “There’s nothing better for my children’s future than Success Academy middle schools, and whether that’s politically inconvenient for the mayor or not, it’s his duty to give our kids a chance.”
“The mayor claims to represent all kids, but he treats charter school families as second-class citizens,” said Success Academy founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz. “Two years ago, he had no difficulty finding 30,000 new pre-k seats. But when the city’s highest-performing charter school network needs space for existing students to continue their education, the mayor is suddenly unable to accommodate them.”
There is no reason why the DOE should struggle to find space. Across the Brooklyn school districts where Success has requested middle school space, there are 32 significantly under-utilized buildings, which have a total of more than 15,000 empty seats. An analysis by the independent Citizen’s Budget Commission found more than 150,000 empty seats in school buildings citywide.
The city’s discrimination against SA Williamsburg and SA Cobble Hill illustrates the mayor’s dismissiveness of public charter school families who want the best for their children.
In 2014, following the mayor’s decision to cancel co-location plans for a Success middle school in Harlem, the state legislature passed a law requiring equal access to public facilities for charter students. SA Williamsburg and SA Cobble Hill requested space in accordance with that law. After repeated delays, parents protested — but were forced to settle for only a one-year stopgap measure.
Success Academy issued a second formal request for space in a letter to the chancellor on May 20, 2016. According to state law, the DOE has five months to provide seats in a “reasonable, appropriate, and comparable public school building” relative to each charter school’s district of location. The city has had plenty of time to locate such buildings.
Instead, officials have belatedly proposed to cram SA Williamsburg and SA Cobble Hill into spaces the schools will quickly outgrow. Even if this proposal could possibly work, the Panel for Educational Policy couldn’t approve it until January. This means families will be forced to endure months of additional delays and frustration.
At both SA Williamsburg and SA Cobble Hill, more than 98% of the children who now need middle school space passed the 2016 state math exam — compared to 36% of students citywide. If parents are forced to send their kids back into the district system, their choices will be poor: In Districts 14 and 15, there are only four district middle schools out of 22 where even half of sixth graders met state standards in math.
The city’s repeated delays impact kids citywide who are stuck on charter school waiting lists. Success enrolled 1,750 fewer new students than it would have if space for new elementary schools had been offered on time and in good faith.
Top charter networks, including Success, have submitted 25 requests for public space — and only one of those requests has been fully resolved. They are subject to a pattern of extended delays, vague promises, and and foot-dragging that threatens to deepen educational inequality for tens of thousands of children
“Access to public space is crucial for providing thousands of NYC’s highest-need students access to a great school,” said Achievement First Co-CEO and President Dacia Toll. “The city’s highest-performing public charter schools stand poised to meet this need by adding 50 new public charter schools over the next two years.”
ABOUT SUCCESS ACADEMY CHARTER SCHOOLS
Founded in 2006, Success Academy Charter Schools are free public K through 12 schools open to all children in the state through a random lottery. With 41 schools across Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens, Success Academy enrolls 14,000 students, primarily low-income children of color in disadvantaged neighborhoods: 77% of students receive free or reduced-price lunch, 95% are children of color, 15% are children with disabilities, and 8.5% are English language learners. Ranked in the top 0.3% in math and the top 1.5% in English among all New York State schools on 2016 state proficiency tests, Success Academy schools received more than 20,000 applications for fewer than 3,400 open seats this year.
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