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Charter School Anger Boils Over as City Moves to Vote Tonight

By DNAinfo Staff on February 24, 2010 2:12pm  | Updated on February 24, 2010 3:06pm

The Bloomberg Administration's attempts to move charter schools into public school buildings has prompted protests across Manhattan.
The Bloomberg Administration's attempts to move charter schools into public school buildings has prompted protests across Manhattan.
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Suzanne Ma/DNAinfo

By Jon Schuppe

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MANHATTAN — The city's Panel for Educational Policy will vote Wednesday night on proposals to allow charter schools to expand into more city classrooms, a move that has widened the rift between supporters of private and public education.

The panel voted last month to close 19 failing public schools despite a wave of protests and legal battles. In many cases, those schools are bring replaced by charter schools.

Wednesday’s vote doesn’t involve closings, but to public-school supporters it represents another step in the Bloomberg Administration's attempts to squeeze them out.

The panel is expected to approve the new proposals. Eight of its 13 members are appointed by the mayor, who is trying to revamp and cut costs in the nation's largest public school system.

In East Harlem, Bloomberg wants to move a charter school, Harlem Success Academy II, into a building currently occupied by three schools. Of them, the KAPPA II charter school, is being shut down for poor performance. The remaining public schools, P.S. 30 and P.S. 138, which serves special-education students, will share the building with Harlem Success Academy.

The proposal was subject of a heated hearing Monday night at the P.S. 30 building, where supporters of the school said that Harlem Success Academy should find its own space. P.S. 30, they said, was doing fine academically.

Many parents and teachers have argued that the expansion of charter schools drains money from public schools, and is leading to the gradual privatization of the 1.1 million-pupil system.

The Coalition of Educational Justice issued a report this month calling the “co-location” policy “callous and often reckless.” The moves “are creating a two-tiered system in which charter schools expand at the cost of existing schools that continue to serve the lowest-income students, English language learners and students in special education,” the group said.

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein disagrees, and today cited a new study by the Independent Budget Office that shows that charter schools get less public funding than public schools. Charter school students generally perform better on standardized tests than public school students, he said.

“The IBO study validates the city’s policy of offering public space to charter schools in an attempt to provide charter school students with the same resources as their peers in other public schools,” Klein said in a prepared statement.

“Until the state’s funding formula is revised and charter schools are eligible for capital dollars like other schools, we will continue to work with communities and parents across the city to find space for new charters when it is available and presents the right fit with other schools in a building.”

The Panel for Educational Policy’s vote tonight at the High School of Fashion Industries on West 24th Street will affect 16 school buildings across the five boroughs. In Manhattan, besides relocating Harlem Success Academy, the panel is considering:

  • Moving the High School for Excellence and Innovation in Inwood to a nearby building that is already used by J.H.S 52;
  • Expanding Girls Prep Charter School in its East Village building, which also houses P.S. 188 and P.S. M094, a special-education program;
  • Expanding KIPP Infinity Charter School in its Hamilton Heights building, which it shares with I.S. 195 Roberto Clemente.