Thursday, July 07, 2011

Charter schools belong here, too: UFT lawsuit needlessly demonizes co-location

My friend Jeff Ginsberg, head of the East Harlem Tutorial Program, which is trying to open a new charter school that has been caught up in the UFT/NAACP lawsuit, with a powerful op ed:


The city's teachers union, the United Federation of Teachers, and the NAACP have challenged the plans, and a judge is considering whether these schools will be able to expand and, in some cases, simply open. In the meantime, he has stopped some of the schools from readying the spaces for next year. Time is short, particularly because many charters have a longer school year that starts in August.

Among the charter schools named in the suit is East Harlem Scholars Academy, the community school I co-founded under the auspices of the East Harlem Tutorial Program, a long-serving and successful after-school program in East Harlem. We were assigned space in the Jackie Robinson Educational Complex on 106th St., but like the other charter schools named in the suit, we are in limbo. Our teachers are unable to get into their classrooms. Our parents, many of whom work two jobs, are unable to plan for school dropoffs and pickups. Worse, our students - kindergartners and first-graders - who are bursting with pride and dreaming about walking up those steps for the first time, are forced to wait.

It is so hard to explain to them why they have to wait. After all, like traditional district schools, charter schools are public schools. We are funded by the same public dollars that fund district schools, only less so - most of us don't receive any funding for facilities, which is why we are seeking space in the district buildings. Meanwhile, in terms of demographics, charter schools educate the same children that public schools do - in fact, often more so.

Take the case of East Harlem Scholars. The Jackie Robinson complex houses three other schools: an elementary school, a high school and a middle school. But of the three schools, only the middle school is a district school. The elementary school, Central Park East 1, is a citywide school. It enrolls students through an application process that is open to the entire city, which means that only a small number of children attending the existing elementary school live in East Harlem.

East Harlem Scholars, on the other hand, is a true community school. It was developed in conjunction with a grass-roots community organization that has been providing after-school education in El Barrio for 53 years. We are bound by the conditions of our charter to give preferential enrollment to children living in our neighborhood. Moreover, we are passionately committed to doing so. Educating the children of East Harlem is, quite frankly, our entire reason for being.


Charter schools belong here, too: UFT lawsuit needlessly demonizes co-location

Wednesday, July 6th 2011, 4:00 AM

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