Monday, November 30, 2009

Charter facilities trouble (in New York)

As anyone in a district with rapid growth can tell you, costs are very different in places that need to add facilities. You're not looking at adding $8,000 or $9,000 in costs to handle each added pupil. Instead, you're figuring out how to borrow and pay back a cost likely to be well north of $10,000,000.

Charter schools have similar facilities struggles, first in finding initial space that meets their learning and safety requirements, and then in adding space if they are met with growing desire to enroll. The New York Times offers one version of how painful those growing pains can be:
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has made charter schools one of his third-term priorities, and that means that in New York, battles and resentment over space — already a way of life — will become even more common. He and his schools chancellor,Joel I. Klein, have allowed nearly two-thirds of the city’s 99 charter schools to move into public school buildings, officials expect two dozen charter schools to open next fall, and the mayor has said he will push the Legislature to allow him to add 100 more in the next four years.
In Harlem, parents have chafed and picketed against an expanding charter school network, the Harlem Success Academy, which is housed in several public schools. In Brownsville, Brooklyn, a plan to close a failing elementary school and let a charter take over the building was shelved after a lawsuit. At P.S. 15, teachers and parents were furious about plans for PAVE to expand next year, after having been told the school would be gone by the end of this academic year. Several hundred parents filled a middle school auditorium in Marine Park, Brooklyn, in the spring to rail against a proposal to house the new Hebrew Language Academy there. The school eventually found a home in a yeshiva.


  1. It is so nice that you say "one version". It is a real shame what the mayor is doing to the school communities of New York City. If he wants charter schools, he needs to find them their own space and not take from others. What a disgrace in NY and to the poor public schools who have to sit back and watch what mayoral control and dictatorship feel like. I thought this was a democracy? Not any more. He will tell you it is about choice. Choice for who, the poor children who are in the middle of this crisis he has created? Selling schools to charter companies, in this day and age of what companies have done to our economy? Well, what can anyone expect from a business man and a lawyer running a school system. Total chaos.

  2. This article highlights the inequities of the charter school movement under the current administration and the tragedy of shared space and its negative impact on successful public schools, the community centers for our children. The article dims however, at taking to task the DOE and Bloomberg for their ridiculous shared space formula that disables the quality education our students deserve; it is a policy that forces students and teachers into closets, shared rooms, and treats their special education, intervention, social service, health, and enrichment services as "luxuries". The article also fails to note the budgetary impact; as we outsource public money and resources into the hands of private business running public schools, only by name only because of said outsourcing of funds, our true public school budgets have been drastically cut and the more than 90% of New York City students who attend these public schools go with less. This is a policy of robbing Peter to pay Paul. It is inequitable. It is unjust. It is undemocratic. It is unethical.
    What can money buy you in New York City? Apparently not your own real estate. Instead, these corporate backed, millionaire and billionaire donor driven private companies and organizations, use public money and public resources to fund their school experiments. They force our students out of classrooms and community space while also receiving public funded transportation, food services, and health services in addition to their per-pupil public funding which nearly matches public schools.
    What they do not spend in real estate and resources, they make up for elsewhere: Their money buys the votes and voices of policymakers who bow to corporate interests that seek to reinforce the system of privilege and subordination we have in this country. Their money buys the custodial staff to privilege their school's needs first. Their money buys fancy computers, paint, and new furniture. It buys them glossy flyers, robo-calls, mailers, and t-shirts. It can buy them press coverage, even the final say in the New York Times!
    What their money cannot buy them, not because they choose not to as in the case of real estate, but because of the nature of their movement, is integrity, truth and honor.
    This movement, and the people who drive it and fund it, root themselves in an ideology that goes against everything our public education system was created to stand for and accomplish. Their movement takes us back to separate but equal, opens the door for privatization and it mirrors the devastating economic system, that we have seen repeated with the prison system and our military, of outsourcing public funds and public interests to private corporations and companies. They do all of this as the Orwellian language slides off their tongues and they claim it's all 'for the children' because... wait for it... 'education is a civil rights issue'. Damn right it is; that we can agree on.
    Money can buy you a school in New York City. It can buy you stolen goods off the backs of our children and their schools and it can place you on the front lines of a movement to dismantle public education. Luckily for us, the parents of teachers of CAPE, we don't have money. All we have is our integrity, truth, and honor. We have our voices and together we call for the protection and preservation of public education and our community public schools.
    CAPE is a group of parents and educators from PS 15, one of the schools featured in this story. We work with other parents and educators in NYC to advocate for the protection and preservation of public education:


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