Out of Control Policy Blog

NYC Mayor's Plan to Shut Down High-Performing Charters is Turned Against Him

In February New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he would prevent three high-performing charter schools from opening by denying them co-location space in underutilized traditional public schools that they were given by de Blasio’s predecessor, Michael Bloomberg. The denial of the rent-free space would shut down the schools.

A month later 11,000 charter school students and their parents lined sidewalks of New York’s capital building in Albany to protest de Blasio’s plan in an effort to save their schools.

Not surprisingly, the charter school controversy in New York City garnered quite a bit of media attention and coverage, including a new docu-series, Alise vs. the Mayor, produced by Will Cain. The docu-series depicts the issue of charter schools in New York City through the eyes of a young girl, Alise Alexander, and her mother. Alise, who is in her fifth year as a student at Harlem’s Success Academy, is one of the hundreds of kids who would fall victim to Mayor DeBlasio’s plan to shut down their schools.

“I really don’t know why [Mayor de Blasio] would try to shut down a top-performing school… why he would want to take away 194 scholar’s education,” Alise told Cain in the first episode of the docu-series.

Unlike some of the city’s public schools, where math proficiency is less than five percent, 82 percent of Harlem’s Success Academy students are proficient in math – the highest math performance in the state in 2013. Parental demand to enroll in one of Success Academy’s school is dually impressive. In 2013, there were nearly five times as many applicants as there were open seats in Success Academy’s schools.

Fortunately, the uproar from those scorned by Mayor de Blasio attracted the attention of charter school supporters, including New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. The Governor thwarted de Blasio’s attempt to prevent charters from using public space with legislation that would give New York charters even more protection than before the de Blasio debacle – the city must either provide public space for charters or lease private space for them to use.

A press release from the Mayor’s office in late April stated that the three charter schools de Blasio planned to close will be given alternative space to operate. Success Academy City Hall, Success Academy Jamaica and Alise’s school, Harlem Success Academy 4, will be relocated in three former Catholic school buildings leased by the city. Mayor de Blasio’s public vendetta against charter schools – specifically those run by Success Academy – will not happen at the expense of the children they serve.

Katie Furtick is Policy Analyst


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