"Charter schools have not only closed the longstanding achievement gap between New York City and the rest of the state, they have also essentially closed the achievement gap that exists between poor, African-American and Hispanic students and their white peers," said Schools Chancellor Joel Klein.
Students at PS 123 in Harlem are pushed aside for charter school expansion
Wednesday, June 3rd 2009, 2:27 PM
They are calling it the invasion of the charter schools.
It seems to work this way:
Parents at a neighborhood public school suddenly learn Chancellor Joel Klein has decreed they must surrender scarce classroom space in their building for a new charter school.
No parent or faculty meeting to gauge whether anyone wants the new school.
No official vote of the local Community Education Council.
Some young bureaucrat from the city Education Department's Office of Portfolio Development arrives one day with a bunch of maps under his arm and promptly orders a new allocation of rooms.
Boom. Done. All part of Klein's rush to create 100,000 new charter school seats over the next few years.
"Ours is not a failing school," Antoinette Hargrove, president of the parents association, said. "Our test scores are going up. If ain't broke, don't fix it." Hargrove said the Education Department wants to cap the growth of PS 123 even though the agency previously approved its expansion into middle school. At the same time, Klein wants to double the size of a new charter school in the same building. That school is Harlem Success Academy II, which former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz launched in September with 180 pupils. She wants to increase enrollment to 360 this fall. Klein often notes that thousands of parents have applied to get their kids into the four schools Moskowitz runs.
He never mentions the well-financed marketing campaign Moskowitz has fashioned to drum up those applications. Nor does he mention that the Education Department has sponsored thousands of automated phone calls to parents in Harlem to get them to apply to Harlem Success schools - something it does for no other public schools.
Hargrove and her parents association at PS 123 organized their own recruitment campaign this year with no money and no assistance from Klein. They held four open houses for the community and persuaded 644 parents to apply to their new middle school.
"We followed all the guidelines they told us to and now they're capping the number of new students," parent Rodney Askins said.
Even worse, half the current fifth-graders at PS 123 have been reassigned to other schools in the neighborhood for September, Hargrove said - all to make room for the expansion of the Moskowitz charter school.
Education Department spokeswoman Melody Meyer confirmed that many of those fifth-graders have been reassigned to other schools, but she denies the transfers were involuntary.
Some parents simply cited a preference for another middle school, Meyer said.
"It is the Department of Education and not me who determines the siting and space allocation for the Harlem Success Academies," Moskowitz said in a letter to parents of PS 123.
The Harlem fight is being repeated all over town. In Co-op City in the Bronx, parents at PS 160 are battling the Education Department's attempt to ram a new charter school into the building. In Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn, hundreds of parents packed a neighborhood meeting a few days ago and forced the Education Department to cancel plans for a new Hebrew Language Charter School at Intermediate School 278. In Sunset Park, residents who fought for 20 years to build a new neighborhood high school are furious that the Education Department has slated a charter school for children from Park Slope to share the facility.
If Klein wants all these new charter schools, they say, let him build new sites for them. In no suburban school system in the state would parent concerns be so flagrantly disregarded.
Sadly, Bloomberg's style of mayoral control has become more like a dictatorship with velvet gloves.