BORO PARK – Tuesday evening saw nearly 80 parents, charter school advocates and alumni from District 15 gather at PS 131’s auditorium for its Community Education Council’s monthly calendar meeting. While there were two points on the agenda, it appeared most of the parents were there for the second one, which was about CEC15’s vote on two charter school resolutions.
“We just want the best for the children of CEC15,” said Anita Skop, superintendent of District15, introducing the issue. From there, Antonia Ferraro, the Charter Committee Chair of CEC15, read aloud in full the council’s first resolution, which was to “oppose an increase in the state charter school and an increase in the city charter school subcap.”
This resolution explained CEC15’s stance on charter schools. It stated that the city is “oversaturated” with charter schools and that the city has 71% of the state’s charter schools and that it is “not a region with a lack of alternative as originally contemplated” since there is a “bounty of public and private options”. It also pointed out that, according to an amendment to the New York State Charter Schools Act, the point of charter schools was to provide options to “region or regions where there may be a lack of alternatives and access to charter schools would provide new alternatives.”
It stated that Brooklyn is “uniquely positioned” to address the charter school issue, explaining that it has 37% of all New York City charter schools, and the most of any county in all of New York.
The resolution also says that there has been “no independent system-wide evaluation of Charter schools and their impact”, and calls for an independent evaluation to “analyze the academic and social impact of Charter schools on their students… examine and develop a system to monitor Charter school enrollment and retention practices…identify and analyze any educational innovation(s) employed by high performing Charter schools.”
The resolution ended with a request to Albany to post a five-year moratorium and an evaluation of the city’s “existing dual education system.”
After Ferraro finished reading aloud, she asked if any of the CEC15 members had any comments. None did.
With that, the floor opened to the public.
About 20 people, mostly D15 parents, hastily lined up in the auditorium’s aisle, waiting for their turn to be handed a microphone to express their thoughts. They all had lots to say.
Most of those who spoke were charter school parents, who strongly defended them sending their children to charter schools in the district, particularly Brooklyn Prospect Charter, BUGS, and Success Academy Cobble Hill.
One parent called the resolution, “undemocratic and biased.” Another told the CEC, “if you want to represent this district, represent all of us.”
Another said, “no school is right for everyone. But limiting charter schools is not right”, while one parent said, who’s two children were in charter schools, explained that while the school had $10,000 less than a public school to educate her kids, “they’re doing more with those funds.”
Out of all those lined up to speak, only one, Kemala Karmen from Park Slope, spoke against charter schools in favor of public. “Charter schools are not public,” she said. “Look at New Orleans. There’s no more public schools there, and it’s a disaster. There’s no responsibility and the charters are privately managed.”
After Karmen returned to her seat, another mother took the microphone to say, “Charter schools are public schools.”
“No, they’re not!” Karmen called out.
More people spoke about their thoughts of the resolution. But at one point, the CEC tried to cut off the line in order to get to the second resolution of the meeting. A few parents who had been waiting on line argued their right to speak, which made the CEC decide to wait for the next calendar meeting to vote on the second resolution.
After everyone on the line voiced their opinions, the Council took vote. The result was in favor of the resolution to ask Albany to put a five-year moratorium.
“That’s a disgrace!” One mother called out as disbelief spread throughout the auditorium.
But some, like Karmen, whose two children are in a public high school, were satisfied.
“Public schools are essential,” she explained. “Money is taken from one and given to another.”
With her was Reyhan Mehran of Carroll Gardens, who had a sign which read “No New Charters in NYC”.
“I’m pleased,” Mehran said, “New York had more than its fair share of charter schools.”
But Jose Orbegozo of Park Slope was not happy with the vote. “I am completely disappointed,” he said. “They’re not listening. The decision was already made. This [meeting] was to fulfill a requirement.”
Orbegozo went on to say that such a move was creating a confrontation.
“How am I different from a public school parent?” he said. “We’re neighbors. This is trying to put parents against parents. We can’t even serve on the CEC, we’re excluded.”
But those who supported the resolution, including members of CEC15, felt the charter school parents misunderstood the point of it.
“We’re not closing any existing charter schools,” Ferraro said. “They really need to read the resolution. A lot of people had a misconception. This is not an anti-charter move at all.”
Just this morning, CEC15 sent out an email to D15 parents explaining that the resolution “does not affect existing or newly approved Charter schools. Caping charters makes sense for the health of the whole system.” It also attached a file of the resolution, urging parents to read it over.
As for the second charter school resolution, which focuses on the evaluation of charter school applicants, that will be presented and voted on in a future calendar meeting.