NEWS AND ISSUES
May 1, 2012
Hon. Merryl H. Tisch
New York State Board of Regents
New York State Education Department
89 Washington Avenue
Albany, New York 12234
Hon. Susan Miller Barker
Interim Executive Director
Charter Schools Institute
State University of New York
41 State Street, Suite 700
Albany, New York 12207
Dear Chancellor Tisch and Ms. Barker,
As a New York State Senator who represents much of Community School District 2 (D2), I write in support of Resolution #54 "Against Co-Location of Success Academy Charter Schools with District 2 Schools," which was approved by the district's Community Education Council (CEC2) on March 28, 2012.
As you know, Success Charter Network has applied to the Charter Schools Institute to open two new schools in unspecified existing D2 school buildings. It is disconcerting that our City and State would even consider these applications – and even more so that the public would be asked to comment on these applications – before the sites for the proposed schools have been identified. Any reasonable assessment of a new school proposal would include a discussion with the community about the sacrifices required by those in the school(s) with which it would co-locate. Nothing in this City happens in a vacuum. That co-location proposals are subject to a local public hearing and a vote by the New York City Department of Education's (DOE) Panel for Education Policy is irrelevant, as the former bears no binding resolution and the latter is universally recognized to be entirely perfunctory.
While it is not within the purview of your agency, I also wish to express my dismay that the New York City School Construction Authority apparently overlooked underutilized education space that DOE indicates exists to house at least 1,200 students at two Success Academy Charter Schools when the community repeatedly requested new traditional public schools to alleviate overcrowding in the district in recent years. In spite of this overcrowding, families in D2 have excellent public elementary school options. In addition to an exceptional slate of zoned schools, the district has five non-zoned or choice options. Any available space in the district should be used to combat overcrowding and high class sizes or to accommodate the growth of existing high-performing schools with new dual-language programs or other attractive options.
As a general rule, I believe that charter schools should not take precedence over – or resources from – our traditional public schools. Instead, the State should focus on providing high quality public education for all. I am particularly concerned that the applicant under consideration – the Success Charter Network – has a reputation as a bad neighbor to its co-located schools. For example, parents and teachers at PS 241 and PS 149, which were compelled to share their facilities with Harlem Success Academy (HSA) schools, report that HSA has aggressively annexed essential classroom and cluster room space and shown a consistent disregard for their host schools' needs. Any co-location of a Success Academy in D2 could impair other students' access to science labs, cafeterias, gym space, and art and music rooms. These issues should be addressed before the charter application is further considered.
Thank you for your consideration of my comments.
Thomas K. Duane
New York State Senate
29th Senate District