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Cuomo’s new charter school favors raise more concerns

Khorri Atkinson | 4/10/2014, 10:38 a.m.
Excellence Boys Charter School in Bed-Stuy

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo stands shoulder-to-shoulder with charter school officials, and as the expansion of colocated charter schools inside traditional public schools continues to be in effect, his new favors have raised more questions than answers for parents, educators and City Council officials.

In his 2014-2015 $130 billion plus spending budget plan, under the education spending section, the New York Senate and Assembly said that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration will now have to get the approval from a charter school in order to make changes to any colocation plans that were already approved before 2014.

Should the city fail to provide space for new charter schools or for those that are expanding and requesting to be colocated in public schools, the law stated that they will have to then provide a private space for the charter schools and pay their rent. This could cost up to $40 million, according to published reports.

“SUNY is now in charge of charters. They [the Senate and Assembly] have taken away the mayor’s control. They decide. We have to fund it,” said Queens District 27 Councilman I. Daneek Miller at a recent colocation forum he sponsored at I.S. 59, a Queens school that will now have to open space for a Success Academy charter school this September.

Public school colocation has been de Blasio’s major concern in his first three months in office. Late last month, he announced a bipartisan group that included Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina and Dave Levin, co-founder of the KIPP charter school network.

Miller has also raised concerns over August Martin High School, another school in Queens that will have to open its doors for a Success Academy charter school this September.

“We don’t have to colocate and pack the room. We just have to use our infrastructure more intelligently and bring in specialized programs that will address the needs of our students,” Miller said.

At the forum, parents and educators said the space that charter schools are taking up is preventing public schools from further developing and providing more programs for students. Some said former Mayor Mike Bloomberg and his Department of Education staff lowered student enrollment figures in order to make space for charter schools.

Kim Sarwee, who teaches at I.S. 59, said that although she and the school administration tried to stop Bloomberg’s colocation of the schools, “they approve the vote anyway.”

Miller said that the New York City Council Education Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on April 22 to discuss the effects that Albany’s decision will have on the city’s traditional public schools.

Last Friday, city officials announced that a 24-member group of principals, charter school officials, real estate experts and special education advocates will work together to try to discuss issues surrounding school colocation, overcrowding and classroom trailers. The group will be led by Farina and Deputy Mayor Richard Buery.