By Gabriela Resto-Montero
UPPER EAST SIDE — Frustrated teachers, students and parents brought the fight against charter schools and public school closures to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's doorstep Thursday in a march from Central Park to across the street from his 79th Street home.
The protest drew hundreds of education advocates aiming to stem a host of school closures, teacher layoffs and privatization, according to Merry Tucker, a retired teacher from the organizing coalition.
"If he's supporting public schools then he shouldn't be closing them and making them charter schools," said Shaniqua Green, 16, a student.
Bloomberg announced the closure of underperforming schools across the five boroughs in 2009, and has supported expanding charter schools throughout his terms.
Green attends William H. Maxwell Vocational High School in Brooklyn, which faces closure this year after receiving a failing grade from the city.
The protesters and City Hall were locked in a legal battle over where the demonstration could take place. On Thursday, the Federal Court of Appeals ruled that the marchers must stay across the street from the mayor's house.
For his part, the mayor had harsh criticism for Albany Tuesday after it botched the opportunity for federal "Race to the Top" program funds that would have helped build more charter schools in the city.
"We are disappointed that we may now miss out on an opportunity to receive unprecedented federal funding for our schools and our children," he said.
School staff present at the rally argued that charter schools themselves were the problem and that they compete with traditional public schools for scarce funds and limited space
"It's comparable to the effort to privatize Social Security," said Matt Frisch, an English as a Second Language teacher. "They wanted to turn Social Security over to the banks, where would we be now if they had been successful?"
Some teachers were upset that despite efforts to improve their schools, they still faced closure.
"Ten percent of our test scores have moved up, our school attendance has gone from 75 percent to 92 percent," said Dale Gates, a truancy officer from Middle School 334 in Brooklyn. "Why is he closing our school?"