Clamping Down on Co-location?
February 23rd, 2010
The word of the day is co-location — and in the eyes of some New York City parents, that’s not a good thing.
With the Panel of Education Policy set to vote Wednesday on placing more charter schools in public school buildings, a group of education activists and politicians tried to stay out of the cold rain Tuesday and called for a moratorium on such “co-locations.”
Questioning the department’s contention that many of the buildings are “under-utilized,” members of the Coalition for Educational Justice called for an independent panel to review the siting of the charter schools. (For details on such a proposal, see Closing Schools: A Call for an Independent Review by Brooklyn College professor David Bloomfield.)
The rally came after numerous contentious hearings around the city where parents and staff in conventional public schools clashed with charter school parents and staff over who should get what space. Publicly funded, privately run charter school receive money from the city and state for operations but not for facilities, a real dilemma in a New York City where real estate is such a precious commodity. To cope with this Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein — unabashed charter school fans — have given many charter schools room in what they term underutilized Department of Education buildings, including, at one point, the department’s Tweed Courthouse headquarter.
(For more on the space wars, see Gotham Gazette’s Charter Schools Enter Uncharted Waters.)
At the rally, parents and others criticized the Department of Education for pitting parent against parent in the struggle for space. To the surprise of many in the crowd, they were joined in this by the New York Charter Parents Association.
“All parents have no say in how co-location occurs,” the group’s president, Mona Davids, told the crowd. Davids said she was born in South Africa, an experience, she said, “that taught me to never let the system pit people of color against each other. … We must unite to make all of our schools great schools.”
Speakers declared charter schools had better facilities and less disadvantaged student than the district school with whom they share space, a reflection of what many see as the city’s pro charter bias. “The administration chose to give millions of dollars to the son of a billionaire for his charter schools,” said Lydia Balacin, referring to PAVE, which was founded by Spencer Robertson, whose father, Julian has reportedly given millions to Bloombergís educational groups.
They questioned the department’s numbers on “underutilization.” “Low achieving students are being deprived of space needed for academic” work, said Carol Boyd. “Science labs are being ripped out in the name of co-location.”
And echoing complaints heard frequently over the past eight years, they scored the Department of Education for not involving the community more in these decisions. “Consultation means before the fact, not after the fact,” said City Council education committee chairman Robert Jackson.
Echoing calls for a moratorium and independent review, Public Advocate Bill di Blasio observed, “School collocation, which sounds like a peaceful, loving system, it not working like that.”
As the fight over space heats up, few would disagree with that.By Gail Robinson on February 23, 2010, 6:39 pm
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