Millman carries teachers union’s spear in charter school battle

The late show: Millman bill would turn bar patios into pumpkins at stroke of midnight
Assemblywoman Joan Millman
The Brooklyn Paper / Gregory P. Mango

A Cobble Hill assemblywoman is pushing a hastily drafted, teachers-union–backed plan to stop a charter school — oddly citing the neighborhood’s school-age population explosion as the reason to halt the non-union elementary school.

Assemblywoman Joan Millman (D–Cobble Hill) and former Department of Education Deputy Chancellor Carmen Farina say that an “early childhood center” should open inside an existing high school building at Court and Baltic streets instead of the proposed Success Charter Network school.

Under the plan — which supporters have not presented to the city — area pre-K and kindergarten students would be allotted space in the building, which is home to the Brooklyn School for Global Studies and the School for International Studies.

The stated goal: Remedy packed elementary schools in Cobble Hill by sending some of the neighborhood’s youngest kids to the new center.

The other goal: Thwarting former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz’s hopes of opening her non-union elementary school in the building.

Enrollment details have not yet been hammered out, but Millman noted that the center would be smaller than the proposed charter school, which would open next fall with a kindergarten class and grow by one grade each year.

“This would relieve overcrowding,” Millman said. “The charter school would begin to squeeze out the existing schools.”

The new plan comes a month after Moskowitz — who runs the multimillion dollar not-for-profit Success Charter Network — announced she would open a K-4 school at the site, citing a “need for more [and] better schools” and a school-age population boom.

But parents and the teachers union is fighting the plan, arguing out that teachers and students at the Global Studies school — which this year rose from an F-rating to a B — would have to compete for classroom, cafeteria and gym space.

To stop the charter network, the Alliance for Quality Education — an education advocacy group affiliated with the United Federation of Teachers, which has been opposed to charter schools in the past — created the early childhood center proposal.

The group claims that the charter school “will generate division and tension” and that the early childhood center will be “community-led and community-based.”

Millman, a former teacher who has been in Albany for 14 years, admitted that she didn’t push the idea until the charter school hatched its plan. She claimed that her tardiness was simply because the Department of Education has in the past been unreceptive to her proposals.

Millman added that the charter school would “impede the growth” of the Brooklyn School for Global Studies — but the school’s principal Joseph O’Brien told The Brooklyn Paper that he supports Moskowitz’s charter school.

Success Netword schools are run by an independent board and offer a more flexible structure and different curriculum. Students are chosen via lottery and teachers do not belong to the union.

In Cobble Hill, PS 261, PS 58 and PS 146 were over-enrolled last year — most notably in lower level grades such as kindergarten.

Department of Education spokesman Frank Thomas said that the city has not received the Millman-union proposal.

“I’m not going to comment on a plan that doesn’t really exist,” said Thomas.

Farina did not respond to two calls seeking comment.

But parents had plenty to say.

“A smaller school wouldn’t interfere as much,” said Pamela Bynoe, president of the Parent Teacher Association at the Brooklyn School for Global Studies. “This is a much better idea.”

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at noneill@cnglocal.com or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.

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