Parents, teachers, kids, pols rally against charter school plan
Protesters say they don’t want Success Academy in Seth Low
Chanting “Eva go home!” and “No Co, No Co, No Co-location!” more than 100 people took part in a protest demonstration outside Seth Low Intermediate School in Bensonhurst on March 7 against a plan to move one of the Success Academy charter schools run by former councilwoman Eva Moskowitz into Seth Low this coming September, a plan Mayor Bill de Blasio gave final approval to last week.
The protesters, including parents of Seth Low IS students, teachers, elected officials and students, marched back and forth on the sidewalk outside the front of the school building at 99 Avenue P demanding that de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina reverse the decision to allow the plan to move a Success Academy into the Bensonhurst school.
The protest was organized by the Community Education Council (CEC) of School District 21.
De Blasio, who reviewed dozens of plans previously approved by the Bloomberg Administration for traditional public schools and charter schools to share space, a concept known as co-locations, rejected nine proposals. But the mayor permitted several co-location plans to move forward, including two impacting schools in Schools District 21 in Brooklyn – the Success Charter plan at Seth Low IS and a plan for Coney Island Prep to move into Joseph B. Cavallaro IS at 8787 24th Ave.
“No decision is final!” CEC 21 President Heather Fiorica told the protesters.
Charter schools are public schools, but they operate differently from traditional public schools in that they are run by non-profit groups and receive lots of cash from individuals and corporations.
The protesters charged that forcing Seth Low IS and Cavallaro IS to share their buildings with charter schools would result in overcrowded classrooms in both schools and would lead to a class system that would leave youngsters in the traditional public schools behind. Charter school students get the best of everything, from iPads to organic lunches, while their traditional public school counterparts struggle to get by with old textbooks, according to protesters.
Councilman Mark Treyger (D-Coney Island-Gravesend-Bensonhurst), one of several elected officials who spoke at the protest demonstration, said that instead of moving charter schools into traditional public schools, the city should be doing a better job of supporting the traditional schools. “We’re not looking for roommates. We’re looking for support,” he said.
Councilman David Greenfield (D-Borough Park-Midwood-Bensonhurst), who represents the area where Seth Low IS is located, stands with parents against the co-location plan, a spokesman told protesters.
In a statement, CEC 21 charged that the mayor is being too hasty. “More time should have been taken to visit schools, families and community members regarding the co-locations. There is no need to rush putting two more elementary schools in our district. We have and always will supply a high quality education for every child in our district’s traditional public schools,” the statement read.
Assemblyman Peter Abbate (D-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) said charter schools usually open up in neighborhoods with failing schools. “We have no failing schools in our neighborhood,” he said.
The protesters found many ways to get their point across. At one point, demonstrators chanted, “How do you spell success? S-E-T-H L-O-W!” One protester carried a sign reading, “Stop the invasion. No co-location.”
Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-parts of Bensonhurst) said he would be joining a lawsuit filed by Public Advocate Letitia James to block the co-location of some 30 charter schools in the city.
The New York Daily News reported that James told a group of parents at a March 8 town hall that the lawsuit will move forward. The mayor predicted that his administration will win the lawsuit, Capitol New York reported on March 9.
U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Brooklyn-Manhattan) issued a statement expressing concern about the impact on children. “Moving hundreds of elementary school students into Seth Low means cutting back on space meant for middle school students, which could mean overcrowding in the future for both District 20 and 21,” he stated.
“We must save the education of our children,” Assemblyman William Colton (D-Gravesend-Bensonhurst) said. “We will not stop fighting until we win.”
“Success Academy schools are among the highest performing in New York City and we are excited to meet some of the overwhelming demand from Bensonhurst families for another high quality public school option in their neighborhood,” a Success Academy spokeswoman told Pix 11 News.
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