City drops boro charter school

Photo by Christina Santucci
By Rich Bockmann

Mayor Bill de Blasio last week reversed a decision the Bloomberg administration made during its waning hours by refusing to allow three controversial charter schools, including one in southeast Queens, to share space with public schools in the fall, though another charter in the borough is still on the table.

City Hall revoked the co-locations of three Success Academy charter schools in Manhattan and Queens run by de Blasio political adversary Eva Moskowitz, proposed by the previous administration and approved by the city Panel for Educational Policy in October.

For the most part, charters have operated rent-free in public school buildings, thanks to the support of the Bloomberg administration, a policy that has drawn sharp criticism from charter opponents.

Among the trio was a planned K-4 academy in Queens which would have shared space with August Martin High School in South Jamaica.

In the lead-up to the October PEP meeting, the August Martin community vociferously opposed the co-location, arguing in part it would force the school to remove about $17 million in equipment supporting a popular program in order to make way for the charter school.

With 22 schools currently operating in Brooklyn and Manhattan, Success Academy is the largest charter network in the city and the largest target for those critical of charter schools.

Moskowitz closed all of her schools Tuesday to bring her students to Albany on buses, where she planned to provide instruction en route, to protest de Blasio’s decision. At the Capitol she was joined by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who pledged his support for charter schools.

De Blasio was also in Albany rallying support for his pre-kindergarten plan.

Moskowitz’s move to close her schools drew sharp criticism from City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), a former school teacher and chairman of the Council’s Education Committee.

“First and foremost, I do not believe the inside of a bus is an appropriate location to provide educational instruction,” he said in a statement, adding he intended to hold an oversight hearing to see if any rules had been broken.

“I am also deeply concerned about the legality of a school leader closing schools for entirely political purposes,” the statement said. “This is the second time that Moskowitz has closed her schools for what seems to have been political purposes. In October, Moskowitz closed her Success Academy charter schools to lead a political march across the Brooklyn Bridge to protest Bill de Blasio.”

Dromm accused Moskowitz, who chaired the Education Committee from 2002-05 when she sat on the Council of using her students as political pawns.

At the October meeting, the education panel approved co-locations for six Success Academy schools — which still need the green light from the State University of New York’s Charter Schools Institute — only half of which were revoked by de Blasio.

The mayor did not make any changes to a proposal to co-locate a Success Academy school with IS 59 in Springfield Gardens.

Meanwhile, the New York Post reported that Gov. Andrew Cuomo told a gathering at the Harvard Club that he would support legislation to have the state to reimburse charter schools for the cost of renting facilities.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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