De Blasio unveils charter school co-location vision

Khorri Atkinson | 9/18/2014, 1:56 p.m.
On the final stop of his first-day, five-borough city school tour last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio made it clear ...
Bill deBlasio

On the final stop of his first-day, five-borough city school tour last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio made it clear to charter schools seeking to co-locate in public schools that if they aren’t aligned with his vision—in regards to the acceptance of special education students and implementing English as a second language for those who speak Spanish—he’s not going to accommodate space for them.

“I’ve made very clear what my values would be, and now we expect the schools that are part of this system to conform to the approach we’re bringing forward. We’re going to have a very specific policy related to co-location that reflects those values,” said de Blaiso at Amber Charter School in Harlem. Unlike other charter schools he publicly criticized, Amber has unionized teachers and operates in a private space. Amber is the first Latino-led charter school in the state of New York, which also builds its curriculum on arts, music and technology.

“This is a charter school that really exemplifies our values,” said de Blasio. “It is inclusive and is working with children of all different types of needs and capacity. This is a great example of what charter schools can do and how [they] can enrich all of us.”

The mayor’s caution to charter schools comes when asked about a state law that Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed in April. The law mandates the city to pay rent for new or expanding charter schools if the city declined to provide them with space in public schools they’ve requested. “I think the state law needs to be looked at very carefully,” he responded.  

The mayor didn’t answer when asked if the city plans to foot the rent costs for those he may not give space. However, he pointed out “the state law says there is a process, and if that process is not mutually satisfactory to our Department of Education and to the charter, then there’s the option to have a legal process, a court process. Everything is determined by available space to begin with.”

De Blasio further added that most of the city public schools are already at capacity and can’t make space for charters. “Where we have available space, we will go through the process as delineated in the state law. Where we have a difference, again, there’s a due process dynamic to the state law, including going into the judicial system.”

Standing with Deputy Mayor Richard Buery, School Chancellor Carmen Farina and other elected officials, the mayor said the Education Department is drafting what he called “co-location guidelines,” with charter schools at the table. The guidelines will mandate how charter schools will share space in a public school “effectively and fairly.”