Dear Mayor de Blasio:
Last December, your office promised in writing to approve co-locations for four Success Academy schools by June 30 of this year. The deadline for filing the paperwork necessary to meet that deadline has passed, and only one co-location has been found.
New York City has 50,000 students on charter school waiting lists. Success Academy alone had to turn away more than 19,000 children this year. The length of these waiting lists is a barometer of the profound dissatisfaction of New York families for the educational choices available to their children.
Your promise to find space for Success Academy was a promise not just to us, but to the families of these children stuck on waiting lists, many of whom are trapped in failing district schools. Families in the South Bronx and East New York deserve the same educational opportunities as those who are fortunate enough to live in Park Slope or on the Upper East Side.
I am particularly disappointed because Success Academy agreed to open fewer schools in order to make it easier for you to find sufficient space for them. We did so on the condition, to which your administration agreed, that “The PEP [Panel for Educational Policy] will vote to site four of these schools no later than June 30, 2015, and it will vote to site the remaining four schools no later than November 30, 2015.”
Adding to the problem is that on Wednesday, the PEP delayed approval of a co-location proposal for Success Academy Midwood. This is the second time the PEP’s vote on a Success Academy proposal has been delayed. You are apparently unable to convince the PEP members you appointed to approve this co-location. That is profoundly troubling.
You are asking the state Legislature to renew mayoral control. There is a reason they call it that. You have been granted the ability to exercise control and it is your duty to exercise it in the interest of all New Yorkers. There is no point in having mayoral control if you don’t use it.
During your campaign, you claimed that you would be able to establish a better dialogue concerning the placement of charter schools. That is well and fine, but sometimes doing the right thing means standing up to loud voices and special interests that are just wrong. There is a very big difference between having a rational dialogue and letting special interests that take unreasonable positions dictate the education policy in New York City.
Since I first proposed charter school co-location 13 years ago when you and I both sat on the City Council’s Education Committee, more than 100 charter schools have been co-located, bringing opportunity to tens of thousands of New York students. There is no reason, other than a political one, that such co-locations cannot continue to occur under your administration. There are 160,000 empty seats in city-owned school buildings across the city, and 173 buildings with more than 300 unused seats. The idea that space cannot be found for Success Academy schools is preposterous.
On behalf of Success Academy’s 19,000 wait-listed families, I urge you to keep your promise. We need a mayor who will lead the fight for better educational opportunities and not allow kids be held hostage by special interests and those who are unwilling to listen to reason.