DOE authorizes new charter schools for Bronx

On Tuesday, February 10, Department of Education Chancellor Joel Klein announced that three new charters school would open in the Bronx this year.

One won’t. One will. One may or may not. Was Klein’s declaration premature?

“We tried for a long time to find space in the Bronx,” said Susan Stengel, future principal of the Ethical Community Charter School. “We tried for two years. Now it looks like we’ll locate in Manhattan or Brooklyn.”

NYC boasts 78 charter schools, 23 in the Bronx. According to Klein, another 25 will open in 2009, pushing the citywide total past 100. Combined, the city’s charter schools boast a waiting list 30,000 names long.

More than 84 percent of charter school students met or exceeded grade-level standards in math last year, compared with 74 percent citywide. More than 67 percent met English standards, compared with 58 percent citywide.

In 2007, Albany raised the state cap on charter schools. NYC could reach 150 charter schools soon – if there’s room.

“Space is a real problem,” said Jeffrey Litt of the Carl C. Ichan Charter Schools. “We found a place in School District 7. We were really excited. Then we found out it was reserved for a special education program.”

If Litt doesn’t secure a spot for Carl C. Ichan #4 soon, the K-6 school’s first year could evaporate. Most charter schools rely on DOE for “incubation” space. These days, incubation space is hard to find.

The Equality Charter School will open somewhere in School District 11 this fall. Future principal JoAnn Murphy is counting on DOE to find space for her students. According to Murphy, the middle school plus high school will offer college prep curriculum to all students, regardless of disability, background and/or language ability.

The Equality Charter School’s District 11 placement was news to District 11 Community Education Council president Monica Major.

“This is really unfortunate,” Major said. “DOE placed a school here and told us nothing. We don’t need a charter school. Our schools are performing. I’m curious where DOE is going to place it. We don’t have space.”

According to Major, charter schools attract NYC’s best and brightest – at the expense of public schools.

“I have no idea where to send my son next year,” said Michelle Gibson, mother to a PS 87 fifth grader. “I’ll send my son to a charter if that’s the best option, but I’d rather send him to a good public school. Charters are taking space away from public schools, and that’s unfair.”

DOE spokeswoman Melody Meyer admits that the city has a space deficit.

“We all know real estate is at a premium,” Meyer said. “Whenever possible, we’re offering underutilized space in DOE buildings. A new Housing Authority development in Brooklyn just donated space to a charter school. We’re looking at creative ways to help.”

DOE, charter schools

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