"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

More "Zero" Pushback?

Even charter school parents are offended by Duncan's "zero" opposition claims:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Leonie Haimson, 917-435-9329

Tuesday, May 18, 2010 Mona Davids, 917-340-8987

Khem Irby: 718-452-0146

Leslie-Ann Byfield: 917-783-5299


Before raising the cap, charter and district parents demand more transparency, accountability, equity and parent input at charter schools

NEW YORK, NY (May 18, 2010) Today, current and former charter school parents protested the appearance of Secretary Duncan’s visit to Kings Collegiate Charter School in Brooklyn, one of the chain of charter schools run by Uncommon Schools. They called attention to the fact that Duncan’s attempt to pressure the Legislature to raise the cap on charters ignores the many flaws in the current system, including the lack of sufficient financial oversight, excessive discipline at charter schools and the suppression of parent and student rights.

According to Leslie-Ann Byfield, a charter school parent who advocates for parents with children experiencing abusive practices at charter schools, “Increasing the number of charter schools without acknowledging the growing list of complaints and concerns, AND without providing remedies, is irresponsible at least, and even more so when supported by the Secretary of Education. Today, I waited in the rain until I could ask Secretary Duncan when he would talk to charter parents to hear their concerns. He politely responded that he does talk to parents and was willing to meet with us. But when I asked how we could arrange this, I immediately became invisible, as he turned his back, walked away and shut his car door. Now I understand how it is that Secretary Duncan says there is zero opposition to his charter school proposals. Today, Secretary Duncan deemed me a zero.”

According to Mona Davids, President of the NY Charter Parents Association, "Uncommon Schools does not allow Parent Associations of any kind. We have been helping a parent at the Kings Collegiate School for several months. We need far more transparency and a voice for parents at all charter schools, to stop their abusive practices. Secretary Duncan should explain what he is going to do to ensure that corporate chicanery, corruption and financial mismanagement does not happen at charter schools, and should have addressed the plight of the parents at Kings Collegiate when he visited that school. That would show he truly cares about our children!"

Samantha Jeffrey, a parent at Kings Collegiate Charter School, says, “I support the charter school system, however I believe they have not reached their potential so that my child can reach his potential as well. I would like to work with them on real solutions that focus on the child’s academic excellence, as opposed to the distractions of the current disciplinary code and policy. I have also been ignored when I asked for essential information that I deserve as a parent. Parents at our school as well as other charter schools need a voice.”

Data from the State Education Department for Kings Collegiate shows that while there are 90 fifth graders, this number shrinks to 53 students in the seventh grade.

Khem Irby, parent leader in District 13 and a former parent at Leadership Prep Charter School, one of the Uncommon Schools chain, said: “It was very disrespectful of Secretary Duncan not to visit K588 today, the public school co-located in the building with Kings Collegiate. He should be reminded that charter schools are NOT the cure-all. We were told by the attorney of Uncommon Schools to cease and desist our efforts to form a Parent Association at the school. The practices at Leadership Prep continue to degrade the self-esteem of children. Many of their students have been suspended for trivial reasons like “yawning too loud”, and they have had a mass exodus of students who have returned to neighborhood schools. They also have used ACS as a tool to suppress parent complaints.”

Lydia Temples, a former parent at Leadership Prep, said: “When I had concerns about the unfairness of the disciplinary procedures at the school, I used all the legal avenues of redress at my disposal. I filed grievances with the school, the board of trustees, the SUNY Charter School Institute, the Board of Regents, and finally, the State Education Commissioner, and none of them responded. Instead, the school called ACS to try to shut down my complaints and they took my daughter away from me for two days. I finally had to take my child out of the school.”

Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters, says: “We object to Duncan’s political pressure to force our state to raise the cap on charters, without any protections in place to prevent financial corruption and abuse of power. He has said that there is “zero” opposition to his policies, and yet more than two thousand people have signed our petition against raising the charter cap in the last two weeks. We also resent the way the charter lobby is spreading disinformation, including the false claim that the “Race to the Top” funding can be used to prevent layoffs at schools. As Kathleen Grimm pointed out at City Council hearings last week, the use of this federal grant program is very restrictive and cannot be used for these purposes.”

Lisa Donlan, President of the Community Education Council in District 1, where bitter battles have occurred over charter schools occupying space in existing public schools, concludes: “The US Dept of Education should be using its leadership to encourage states to adopt real solutions to the problems of our schools, including admissions plans that reduce racial and economic isolation; smaller class sizes; and greater opportunities for early childhood education. Arne Duncan has ignored all these issues in favor of a narrow political agenda to promote privatization.”

Class Size Matters and the NY Charter Parents Association have sponsored a petition to the State Legislature, urging them to adopt protections for parents and students and enhanced accountability for charter schools before lifting the cap. The petition has received more than 2,000 signatures in the last two weeks, and can be viewed at http://www.change.org/petitions/view/vote_no_to_raising_the_cap_on_charter_schools

The two groups have also formulated a framework of common principles for charter and district schools, demanding more accountability for the spending of taxpayer, including audits from the State Comptroller and barring profit-making charter operators from making money off our children. It also calls for more voice for parents, including the need for every charter school to have a Parents Association and a parent sitting on its board. The framework document can be accessed at: http://www.classsizematters.org/common_principles_v3.pdf

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