The city overwhelmingly approved a controversial charter school’s plans of taking space inside a Cobble Hill high school building on Wednesday night, despite opposition of parents and teachers.
The Panel for Education Policy voted to give the Success Charter Network, which is run by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz, rent-free space for its kindergarten-through-fourth–grade program at the school at Baltic and Court streets, currently home to the Brooklyn School for Global Studies, the School for International Studies and the STAR school, which provides special education programs for children with disabilities.
The vote came after furious protest from dozens of parents and teachers at the school who had traveled to distant Corona, Queens to argue that overcrowding will worsen as the kindergarten and first-grade charter school eventually expands to a full elementary program.
“They want to take 15 of our classrooms,” teacher Clare Daley told the city panel. “That’s half of our classrooms. Our students need small class sizes. If the mayor has his way, we can have 50, to 60 students in a class and cut our teaching staff in half.”
According to the city, the school has 691 open seats — more than enough to accommodate the charter school in a neighborhood whose school-age population is booming.
“Kindergarten enrollment in this neighborhood has grown significantly over the last five years, so we want to take the proactive step of bringing a new, excellent elementary school for this community to ensure access to high-quality seats for families,” said Department of Education spokesman Frank Thomas.
And supporters told the panel that more options are simply better.
“It’s in the best interest of students to have the choice to choose a good school, whether that’s public, or charter,” said Brain Davis, a member of a Community Education Council in Manhattan.
The Bloomberg administration has made is a priority to expand charter schools, which are controversial because they require space inside public schools, generate their own curriculums and, frequently, do not hire union teachers.
Others complained that charter schools do not admit all students, including those with special needs.
“Kids with serious special-ed needs are not being served at all by the charter schools,” said Rosalie Friend. “They’re also indirectly screening out kids whose families are less sophisticated, who can’t jump through the required procedures like middle-class families can.”
Just attending the meeting, which was moved from Manhattan to distant Queens, was a significant hurdle for some parents, who felt that a local issue should have been handled in closer proximity to the affected school.
“This venue is unfair and unreasonable to the hundreds of people that came out to protest this from Cobble Hill,” Assemblyman Jim Brennan (D–Park Slope) said. “As you can see, you’ve been unsuccessful in diminishing their protest.”
But the panel was successful in diminishing protesters’ hopes.
“I feel bad — the community has been completely ignored,” said Khem Irby. “Initially, charter schools were meant to bring in high-performing schools into communities where there were low-performing schools. Now, they’re going into a district that already has high performing schools, why do we need them?”
Reach reporter Colin Mixson at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling him at (718) 260-4514.