Campbell Brown: NYC Charters Deserve a Better Landlord
Children arrive as their authentic selves. Excellent schools recognize their natural curiosity and nurture their optimism.
The primary responsibility of schools is to rejuvenate a student’s belief in possibilities and provide them with the necessary tools to bring those possibilities to life.
I consider schools that accomplish this to be the genuine renewal schools, borrowing the phrase.
Let me share an impressive example: Success Academy Williamsburg. Last year, all current fifth-graders at this school passed the state math exam, while none of the 11 middle schools in the district had more than half of their sixth-graders pass. Despite having students from similar economic backgrounds as other district students, pass rates in nine of the middle schools were below 20 percent.
Another exceptional school is Success Academy Cobble Hill. Although it has a higher percentage of students of color compared to the district, it is less economically disadvantaged due to the affluent community members who have chosen this school over other options in the neighborhood. Ninety-eight percent of its current fifth-graders passed the state math exam. In the district, with 11 middle schools, only four of them had more than 50 percent of sixth-graders passing the test.
What sets these two charter schools apart from the schools in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Renewal program in their efforts to elevate student achievement? The former are experiencing tremendous success despite the Mayor’s ongoing opposition, while the latter struggle to meet modest goals despite the Mayor’s planned $800 million investment.
To emphasize the point further, de Blasio not only resists the success of these exceptional charter schools, but he also seems determined to make them fail, engaging in a strangely personal and destructive battle.
This has been the case ever since the Mayor campaigned in affluent areas, making a Trump-like statement/promise: "There’s no way in hell Eva Moskowitz should get free rent, OK?"
However, he severely misjudged his attempt to hinder an already planned expansion of Success schools, angering charter supporters, including the governor. As a result, state lawmakers enacted a law that requires districts to provide equal facilities to charter schools.
Not content with achieving the opposite of his original intentions, de Blasio has recently adopted a strategy similar to that of a boy losing his ball, hunkering down and doing nothing.
SA Williamsburg and SA Cobble Hill have been denied space to grow next year, despite a recent study revealing that there are seven school buildings in District 14 (Williamsburg) with 300 available seats each, and three in Cobble Hill’s District 15 (as well as 11 more in neighboring District 13).
The city refuses to offer reasonable solutions for these Success schools and a dozen others around the city that are in need of space. This tactic is only causing disruption through inaction. These schools face immediate city deadlines to open as co-locations in the fall. (The Department of Education has not provided any alternate private spaces.)
City Hall’s disregard for the well-being and expansion of charter schools — significantly fewer were established last year compared to the end of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s tenure — is more than just a political misjudgment. Charters may irritate de Blasio, but they are a source of daily renewal, hope, and success for tens of thousands of New York City children.
Campbell Brown serves on the Board of Directors for Success Academy Charter Schools.
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