Success Academy Parents Demand Right To Keep Children Out Of Failing Schools In The Bronx
Success Academy – July 8, 2015
Ann Powell, 646-894-6407
Pat Wechsler, 347-673-3614
Parents Oppose Union-Backed Group’s Attempt to Block Co-Location
New York, NY — Nineteen Success Academy parents today demanded the right to have their say in a lawsuit that could force them to send their children to a failing district school next year. The lawsuit, which seeks to block the approved co-location of Success Academy Bronx 3 in a half-empty public school building, was filed by Advocates for Justice, a group with strong ties to the teachers union and a history of attempting to block the rights of charter school children to share public school space.
If the lawsuit succeeds, Success Academy Bronx 3 third graders will have no classrooms when school starts in six weeks. Families are outraged at the prospect of sending their children to the neighborhood’s failing schools. In April, the Department of Education had approved the co-location at Building X145, a severely underutilized public school building in the Morrisania area of the Bronx, where the majority of schools fail to meet even minimal academic standards. With less than two months to go before the start of school, parents assert that the lawsuit would disrupt their children’s education and do irreparable harm to their families.
“My son wouldn’t have a place to go to school in August,” said Jalaine Denis, whose son just finished second grade at Success Academy Bronx 3. “We would have to scramble to find another place for him to go to school. I am concerned that if we put him in another school, he would suffer academically and would not have the same access to programs and subjects that he has at Bronx 3.”
Denis and her son were among more than 200 Success Academy families who attended hearings this spring to support the co-location at X145. “My son will be devastated if Bronx 3 loses its space and it would be very traumatic for him to see the efforts that his school, his classmates, and his family took to get the co-location and have this decision changed,” she said.
The Bronx has been especially hard hit by the city’s failing schools crisis, with high concentrations of the worst, most persistently low-performing schools in the city. As district schools have failed to improve, parents have looked elsewhere. District school enrollments have declined sharply, while charter school applications are at a record high for the city. One of every three parents on a charter school wait list is from the Bronx. For this year’s student lottery, Success Academy received 13 applications for every available seat.
The NYC Department of Education granted Success Academy Bronx 3 space to expand to grades 3-5 in school building X145 because its current co-location with PS 146 has space for grades K-2 only. Although X145 already contains three other schools and an Alternative Learning Center (“ALC”), it is just 53% utilized. Under the DOE’s co-location plan, Success Academy Bronx 3 will move its third graders to the building this August, adding grades 4 and 5 over the next two years. Even when Success Academy Bronx 3 is fully enrolled, the DOE estimates the building will still be no more than 74% utilized.
Advocates for Justice has challenged Success Academy co-locations on numerous occasions but has been unsuccessful in blocking school openings. In fact, this lawsuit is the organization’s second attempt to force Success Academy Bronx 3 families out of X145; it initially filed an appeal with the New York State Commissioner of Education, who rightly dismissed the appeal. Now, the organization is suing the city in federal court.
The DOE’s Educational Impact Statement and Building Utilization Plan for X145 and the Commissioner’s rejection of the plaintiff’s appeal make clear that this co-location will have no negative impact on the students attending the three pre-existing schools or ALC. But reversing the co-location just six weeks before school starts would do irreparable harm to Success Academy Bronx 3 children and their families, who live in low-income, minority communities with few educational options. That is the reason the 19 parents are seeking intervenor status.
“If my child loses her education at Success Academy, she will lose her opportunity to have the same education as those children that attend high-quality private schools,” said Mariama Barrie, whose daughter just finished second grade at Success Academy Bronx 3. “My child’s zoned school is unacceptable. If I have to travel ten hours every day to take her to another school, I will.”
“The decision to co-locate Bronx 3 in X145 should not just be about politics but it should be about the kids and their futures,” said parent Bernadette Soobiyah, whose son just graduated from second grade. “Taking away the space our kids were given in X145 is taking away a successful future from our kids. They would not be able to have such a successful future if they went to the public schools they are zoned to.”
About Success Academy Charter Schools
Founded in 2006, Success Academy Charter Schools are free public schools open to all children in the state through a random lottery. Success Academy currently has 32 schools spread across Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan and Queens, serving primarily low-income children in disadvantaged neighborhoods; 77% of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, 95% are children of color, 12% are children with disabilities, and 8.5% are English language learners. With its child-centered approach to education and teaching, Success Academy has helped children from all backgrounds achieve academic success and build the skills they need for college and life. Ranked in the top 1% in math and the top 3% in English on 2014 state proficiency test scores, Success Academy schools received more than 22,000 applications for fewer than 2,300 open seats this year.