‘Shame!’ Advocates blast gov, Albany at anti-charter protest
BY TEQUILA MINSKY | They came from all boroughs. Hundreds of parents, with their placard-carrying children in tow, standing alongside educators on the steps of the New York Public Library’s 42nd St. and Fifth Ave. main branch building on Thurs., April 10.
The multi-generational crowd was passionately protesting the co-location of charter schools within public schools, while, they charged, the needs of mainstream public school students continue to go unmet.
Public education advocate Noah Gotbaum led off the rally by denouncing the recent passage of a bill in the state Legislature that supports charter schools’ free presence within public school buildings.
Along with their chants, children and parents held up a sea of signs further amplifying their sentiments:
“All Kids Matter,” “Who Protects the 94%?” “Wall Street Hands Off $$$ for our Children” and “Protect Our Public Schools” were just a few of the slogans.
As Gotbaum spoke, at one point, the crowd spontaneously broke into a boisterous “Shame on you!” directed at Albany.
State Senator Brad Hoylman, the first of the elected officials to speak, told the crowd why he voted against the bill.
“About 10 years ago, the powers that be told us we needed mayoral control,” he said. “Now that they don’t like the results, they want to take away local control, and that is wrong.
“Did anyone ask you what you thought of this bill — that your art room, your science room should be taken away?” he asked.
“No!” came the resounding response.
“We as parents were not consulted,” Hoylman declared.
Gotbaum reiterated that Hoylman was one of the few state senators to reject the bill that the governor pushed the Legislature to approve.
Also speaking was City Councilmember Daniel Dromm, who chairs the Council’s Education Committee. The Queens representative was formerly a teacher for 25 years.
“We do not want a separate and unequal school system in New York City,” Dromm told the crowd. He blasted as “academic apartheid” the situation where, in the same building, charter-school students have music and dance rooms, while other students down the hall have “holes in their classroom ceilings.”
“We are going to fight back and this is going to grow citywide and statewide,” he said. The crowd responded, “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Governor Cuomo’s got to go!”
Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP New York State Conference, also decried what the advocates call unfair conditions.
“While some children are playing soccer, others are eating lunch at 10:30 in the morning,” she said, referring to the lack of space and overcrowding at many schools that forces an extended “lunch hour” to start soon after children arrive in the morning. “I will stand with you as long as it takes,” Dukes vowed.
Liz Krueger, chairperson of the state Senate’s Finance Committee, blasted Albany for wresting budgetary power over New York City schools away from Mayor de Blasio whereas the state politicians had previously bestowed it on his predecessor, former Mayor Bloomberg.
“Why should Albany gain control over your schools?” she asked the crowd.
After the speeches, the parents, children and union members marched along E. 41st St. to Governor Cuomo’s office on Third Ave., where children presented his representative with a large, signed postcard, with counterfeit dollar bills attached.
Gale Brewer, the Manhattan borough president, also weighed in with a statement:
“It would be a mistake for Albany to force the city to provide public space for all charters or else require the D.O.E. to pay charter rent for private space,” Brewer said. “Our city doesn’t benefit from Albany’s meddling; it can only breed resentment and the vast majority of New Yorkers will not stand for it.
“If Albany truly wanted to be helpful, it would make funding available to alleviate overcrowding and support class-size reduction,” Brewer continued. “In too many Manhattan school districts, pre-K seats have been eliminated to make room for kindergarten seats; and, year after year, class sizes continue to rise. New York City must have the ability to determine best uses for our public school buildings without intervention from Albany.”
Former City Councilmember Eva Moskowitz, the well-paid head of one of the city’s most prominent charter school outfits, Success Academy, has become the chief punching bag of the United Federation of Teachers and school advocates. Charters like Moskowitz’s are blasted as union busters.
Yet, despite the advocates’ fear and loathing of charter schools, they remain phenomenally popular with many inner-city families, who see them as offering their children a better education and a chance at a brighter future.
Indeed, the number of applicants for a single seat in certain charter schools is reportedly greater than for a spot at top Ivy League colleges.
In turn, hedge-funders, foundations and philanthropists are eager to finance the charters.
– With reporting by Lincoln Anderson