BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — A Brooklyn education council is concerned that too many charter schools are teaching children in the district.
The Community Education Council for District 16 worries that if additional charter schools make their way into Bedford-Stuyvesant, the neighborhood will reach a “tipping point” of having more students in charter schools than those in traditional public schools.
In a letter to the Department of Education’s Panel for Educational Policy, CEC 16 members said the area has 44 percent of its kindergarten through eighth-grade students enrolled in charter schools.
The concerns come as a new, 450-seat Success Academy is proposed to open in the district in the fall, according to the group.
As the panel and state review the application for a Success Academy to be co-located with P.S. 25 on Lafayette Avenue near Marcus Garvey Boulevard, along with future charter applications, the CEC is asking them to consider the impact on the future of traditional public school education in central Brooklyn.
“Not every child thrives in a charter school environment and therefore we must work to preserve and improve traditional school options in our community,” the letter reads.
“Additionally, please understand that District 16 is in the midst of significant transition due to shifting demographics and increasing charter school placements at this time could hinder the good work of improving enrollment at traditional public schools that is now underway.”
Current enrollment in traditional public K-8 schools is at 5,098, according to the CEC. Charter enrollment is at 3,923.
As of December 2015, there were eight charter schools in the district, state data shows.
With parents creating their own group to seek ways to improve education in the district and the continued rallying from elected officials and community members for a gifted and talented program, residents have long called attention to the state of education in the area.
The district recently received a new Interim Acting Community Superintendent after former Superintendent Evelyn Santiago stepped down at the end of 2015.
The city has also proposed several co-locations for district schools, citing low enrollment.
“By putting more charter schools there, they’re handicapping enrollment for traditional schools,” said NeQuan C. McLean, president of CEC16.
DOE officials say that there will continue to be more district school seats than charter school seats, even if the proposed Success Academy is approved.
“All families should have access to a wealth of great school options and we are investing in all our public schools to ensure that parents have choices they need to meet the unique needs of their child,” DOE spokesman Harry Hartfield said.
“It doesn't matter whether a student attends a traditional public school or a charter public school — we want every child to get the education they need to succeed.”
Still, the council wants to bring attention to the “vulnerable state” the district is in, McLean said.
“We understand by law they’re [the Department of Education] required to site charters, we understand the predicament they’re in,” he said.
“But we want them to understand the predicament we’re in.”
Teachers, parents and leaders have stressed that the area has a high concentration of homeless students, kids living in homes with multiple families and students with special needs.
Twenty percent of K-8 students were listed as those with disabilities in the 2014-2015 school year, and 62% of K-8 children in the district were deemed “economically disadvantaged,” according to state data.
Charter schools have come under fire for their handling of students with learning differences or disciplinary issues, including one principal at a Fort Greene Success Academy charter school who stepped down this month after word leaked that he'd created a "got to go" list of problematic students.
The CEC asked that charters be committed to “teaching all students” and make “every effort” to retain special needs and homeless students “regardless of the overall impact on test performance.”
McLean emphasized that the council is not totally against charter schools as members have children in both traditional and charter settings.
The CEC worked closely with the DOE on the proposed site for the new Success Academy, has open communication with Success Academy and plans to tour one of their schools in the upcoming weeks, McLean said.
Success Academy declined to comment on the CEC’s letter.
The council is “not unequivocally opposed” to charters, the letter reads, but seeks accountability and partnership to meet district needs. Charters should consider sharing their resources with traditional public schools, the CEC said.
The CEC, which advises on educational policies and provides input regarding traditional schools, requested that charters regularly report to the council in the same way they report to the state to ensure that schools are “truly serving the whole District 16 community.”