Death-Bed Conversion
April 22nd, 2009

The Bloomberg administration does indeed seem to be planning an end run around the state’s charter school law in its effort to save some endangered Brooklyn Catholic schools by making them charter schools. We broke this story last month, and today the Times has a similar report.

To summarize: The state charter law bans converting private schools — religious or otherwise — to charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run. When the city first hatched the idea of making some soon-to-be-shut Brooklyn Catholic schools charters, it said it would seek to change the charter law. Now, though, the city will try to argue the charters are “entirely new schools” — even though they will apparently occupy the same premises as the Catholic schools and are intended to keep youngsters in those schools from pouring into crowded public schools. The idea, education department spokesperson, Melody Meyer told the Times (as she told us last month) is for all “these schools to be able to operate without a break — in other words to be open for students in September. Few people would expect the state legislature to act that quickly.

Of course, between now and the start of school in September, the reborn schools would be stripped of religious imagery and the curriculum changed to avoid religious study. The schools would also have to select students in a lottery.

The Brooklyn diocese has not yet released the names of the schools involved. A spokesperson for the diocese told the Times it would seek to have two schools switch to charters. Several other Catholic schools in Brooklyn and Queens will simply shut their doors at the end of the school year, part of a long trend of Catholic schools closings in New York City.

Any move to save any of the schools will likely come as a relief to parents facing a scramble to find a new schools for their children next fall. But the city’s maneuver does provoke questions. “Serious concerns are raised when the government tries to paint over the religious facade and import an entire school into the public school system and say it’s not a religious school,” Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union told us last month.

Then too there is the Bloomberg administration’s tendency to selectively follow certain laws, particularly with regard to schools. Is the fact that the law moves too slowly, a reason to ignore it?

By on April 22, 2009, 8:35 am
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Education,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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One Response to “Death-Bed Conversion”

  1. Larry Littlefield Says:
    April 22nd, 2009 at 10:08 am

    (Is the fact that the law moves too slowly, a reason to ignore it?)

    It seems in New York the only laws that are enforced are those that benefit people cashing in and moving out and hurt the city’s children and younger generations.

    The Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit went on for what, ten years? During that time school spending soared in the rest of the state, and New York City’s teachers received multiple pension deals, all of which had “hold harmless” claims that somehow the law gives priority over the city’s children.

    And as soon as the suit was settled, the NYC teachers got another huge pension enhancement, and the city’s share of state education funding was cut.

    Well as long as there are enough “special” schools to buy off the yuppies who stay, and enough non-parents remaining in the city to pay taxes to fund those pensions, does anything else matter? Does the ACLU or anyone else have “serious questions?”

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