For parents, educators and city public officials in South Jamaica, Queens. It boils down to one thing: stop the co-location of charter schools into public school buildings.
This is essentially the message they have been sending to Albany, since Governor Andrew Cuomo is standing shoulder to shoulder with charter schools officials and the growth of those schools in the city continues to rise. Charter schools get most of their funding from taxpayers, but are privately operated, and what’s upsetting South Jamaica residents is that many charter schools share the space with existing public schools.
Educators at a rally on April 5 argued that charter schools are taking up space that public schools need to further enhance student learning, like expanding theater arts and physical education programs. They said the Department of Education under former Mayor Mike Bloomberg has lowered student enrollment in order to make space for charters.
Kim Sarwee, who has been teaching for eight years at Intermediate School 59 (I.S. 59), a public school in Springfield Gardens slated to open space for Success Academy charter school next September, said the school had tried to stop Bloomberg’s administration from co-locating the school, “But they approved the vote anyway,” she said.
“Instead of co-locating and bringing in something else, we need to strengthen the existing programs and start new ones,” said Sarwee during the forum on at I.S. 59, a similar concern that was echoed by New York Councilman I. Daneek Miller of Queen’s District 27.
“We don’t need to look to co-locate and pack the room. We have to use our infrastructure more intelligently and bring in specialized programs to address the needs of our students,” said Miller. “We don’t need to have our parents going outside the community for their children to get quality education.”
The forum came just three days after Cuomo and the state’s Senate and Assembly passed a $140 billion budget. Under the education spending plan of the budget agreement, lawmakers stated that the city will now have to get the approval from a charter school in order to make changes to a co-location that was approved before 2014.
The measure had cleared way for Success Academy, opening in September inside Jamaica’s August Martin High School.
Miller pointed out that if the city failed to provide space to new charters or to those that are expanding and requesting co-location in public schools, they will have to pay the charters’ rent to get their own space. This could cost up to $40 million.
Public school space-sharing has been one of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s concerns during the first three months in office. In March he announced a bipartisan group which included School Chancellor Carmen Fariña and co-founder of the KIPP charter school network Dave Levin, to solve the problems of co-location.
The New York City Council Education Committee has scheduled a public hearing for April 22 to discuss the effects that Albany’s decision will have on the city’s traditional public schools, Miller said.