In his latest salvo against charter schools, New York mayor Bill de Blasio revoked approval for the relocation of three charter schools about to move into vacant public-school spaces.
Former mayor Michael Bloomberg approved the three schools, along with tens of others, to co-locate, meaning they’re housed in the unused space of traditional public schools. But after reviewing the co-location proposals, de Blasio said he didn’t want to “rush these decisions,” and halted three impending co-locations. Chief among the concerns were that some of the plans would have housed elementary students in the same building as high-school students (something done the case with many rural schools) and that other plans would have necessitated cutting programs for disabled students, according to a New York Times report.
“All of these schools were ready to give children a rigorous education in safe environments,” James Merriman, chief executive officer of the New York City Charter School Center, said in a statement. “Now it seems that they cannot.”
Blocking expected co-locations is devastating for the administrators, teachers, parents, and children immediately affected.
Andrew Malone, principal of Success Academy Harlem Central, which is no longer approved to co-locate next year, told me he doesn’t know what his school is going to do. “It’s terrifying,” he says. “For the families, it is already nearly March. To be given no warning that the school is closing makes it impossible for them to find another option, and for the majority, unfortunately, their zone schools are failing.”
Malone’s school was temporarily co-located this past year and had received, under the Bloomberg administration, approval for a permanent location elsewhere. De Blasio’s decision takes away the school’s future location and does nothing about the impending eviction from their current location.
Considering New York City’s sky-high rent prices, Success will most likely close — a shame, given that it’s lived up to its moniker.
“We are a very high-performing school,” Malone says, noting that last year his sixth graders had the highest pass rate in the entire state of New York on the state math tests and that both sixth and fifth grades had the No. 1 academic achievement ranking in the borough of Manhattan in 2012.
The Harlem-based school also serves traditionally underprivileged communities — the students come from either upper Manhattan or the Bronx. Ninety percent are black, 10 percent Hispanic; 80 percent receive either a free or reduced-priced lunch.
“Just in the last 48 hours it is has been extremely challenging just seeing the children’s faces,” Malone says. “To tell them we won’t exist next year even when we are extremely successful is hard to swallow.”
Fapoumata Kebe, the mother of three children currently attending Success charter schools, would rather homeschool her children than send them to a traditional district school.
“They want my children to go to a school that is not performing well,” she says. “If they do that, I want to homeschool my children, because I want them to have a chance to succeed.”
Indignant at the surprise decision, Kebe thinks de Blasio is the cause of her children’s uncertain future. “What de Blasio wants to do is to take the children who are succeeding and take them from that school that is performing perfectly to send them to a school that is not good at all,” she says.
Malone fears for the future of his students and their families. “I really hope that New Yorkers, I hope that that Americans, will look at this and put aside the politics and recognize that there are real kids and families here. To close their school out of nowhere is an injustice.”
De Blasio says he doesn’t want to “rush” co-location, but the parents of New York’s most underserved children say they don’t have time to waste.
— Alec Torres is a William F. Buckley Fellow at the National Review Institute.