By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — State officials skipped a public hearing on a controversial new charter school, leaving parents furious that the agency responsible for deciding whether to approve the new school didn't bother to come hear to their views.
No one from the state Education Department attended Monday's hearing on the proposed New York Flex Charter School.
"It is a travesty that the state is not here," said Katherine Consuelo Johnson, a Hell's Kitchen parent who opposes the charter school. "It's a slap in the face."
The Education Department, which has the final say on whether to grant New York Flex its charter, will accept written comments but is not planning to hold another hearing.
Monday night's was arranged by the city Education Department, but the city doesn't have the right to approve a charter for New York Flex Charter School.
The state Education Department did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Matt Borden, Assemblywoman Deborah Glick's chief of staff, also slammed the state DOE for ditching the hearing, which was held at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School for International Careers on W. 46th Street.
"It's a little bit like spitting into the wind," Borden said before he read Glick's testimony against the school.
The proposed New York Flex Charter School would use technology to individualize students' coursework, combining elements of online learning with traditional classroom work. The high school hopes to open with just ninth graders in lower Manhattan in 2012 and eventually grow to a full 550-student high school.
Yung Moon, associate publisher of SELF Magazine and the chief backer of the charter school, said her goal is to serve downtown's diverse population while creating more options for exceptional students.
Michelle Soso, a Midtown resident who said her seventh-grade son is often bored in his class, spoke in support of New York Flex and said she hoped her son could attend for his freshman year of high school.
"This would be our choice," Soso said, adding that she felt the student-driven curriculum would challenge her son.
But Glick's testimony criticized New York Flex for working with a for-profit company called K12 Classroom to create educational content.
Glick said that partnering with a for-profit agency like K12 Classroom could be a violation of state law banning the city DOE from using public funds to benefit for-profit private agencies. Even if K12's involvement with the charter school was indirect, it could "violate the spirit of the law" governing charter schools.
Moon declined to comment on Glick's concerns.
Several local parents also criticized New York Flex for taking up valuable resources that could go to the city's existing schools, which are battling budget cuts and teacher layoffs.
"If you're truly interested in helping children, Public School 51 needs help," said Tamara Ditmyer, a P.S. 51 parent.
P.S. 51 is struggling with an enormous amount of construction around its building, which is making it difficult for the elementary children to learn, Ditmyer said.
Some lower Manhattan parents have also said they oppose New York Flex Charter School because they believe the city's first priority should be resolving an overcrowding crisis in public schools, rather than funding new charter high schools.