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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

18 new charter schools: creating a separate and unequal school system

In today’s news, lots of feel-good spin from the Mayor about the eighteen new charter schools planned for this fall, and how they provide valuable “competition” that will drive improvement in other public schools. One out of every eight schools is now a charter school.

Yet for some reason, this announcement does not bring unalloyed joy to most public school parents. Why?

Each of these new charter schools will take resources and precious space from our regular public schools, taking away their opportunity to provide the same smaller classes that are the charter schools’ greatest attraction.

Indeed, every additional dollar spent on these new charter schools will come right off the top of the Contract for Excellence funds meant to improve conditions in our regular public schools, as a result of the CFE lawsuit. And every time the DOE puts a charter school in an existing building, this deprives students at the existing school of precious classroom space that could be used to reduce class size.

Only a few words of reservation in any of the articles:

In some places, parents have complained about the mayor’s policy of giving charter schools space in existing public school buildings and about the unfairness of their smaller class size, and have called them a diversion from his responsibility to fix the school system overall. (NY Times.)

See this strong statement from Randi Weingarten in the Daily News:

UFT President Randi Weingarten said that charters should operate in separate spaces or buildings than public schools to prevent overcrowding in the regular public schools. "They should have their own space and be as transparent and open as regular public schools in order to ensure a level playing field and avoid divisive situations where the needs of charter school students are pitted against those of other public school students," she said.

Watch the NY1 segment:

Some Bronx parents say that competition isn't the answer to the problems in their local school. One parent said Bloomberg needs to focus more on making sure that all schools have the resources they need to succeed, so there's no competition at all between neighborhood and charter schools.

Indeed, how can traditional public schools be expected to compete on a level playing field, when they are deprived of the ability to cap enrollment and class sizes at reasonable levels? How does this promote equity?

The only question is why the administration is so averse to allowing all our schools to reduce class size, even in the face of a state mandate to do so, while encouraging this very same practice in charter schools.

Do the Mayor and the Chancellor actually intend to create a separate and unequal school system?

See this letter to the State Commissioner from 30 Community Education Council members and other parent leaders, protesting their lack of input into the siting of charter schools, and the way in which the administration ignores the impact of these schools in further depriving students at existing schools of adequate learning conditions. The letter was mentioned in an earlier NY Sun article here.

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