Charter school funding focus of protest march to Cuomo's office
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Parents from southwest Brooklyn are planning to take part in a citywide march on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s midtown Manhattan office Thursday to protest the state education budget.
Leaders of the community education councils (CEC) of school districts 20 and 21 emailed notices and distributed fliers to parents urging them to join the after-school protest march and to bring their children along.
Sponsored by the CEC/Citywide Working Group, a coalition of elected district education councils from across the city, the demonstration is aimed at protesting what parents said is an inequity in funding for traditional public schools in the new state budget agreed to in Albany last week. CEC members charge that charter schools are being favored by the state over traditional public schools.
Other groups expected to take part include: Alliance for Quality Education, New York Communities for Change, Change the Stakes, and Parent Voices.
One goal of Thursday's protest march is to “hold Governor Cuomo’s feet to the fire,” according to a flier announcing the event.
The protesters, who are being urged to bring noisemakers to the demonstration, will be convening on the steps of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue and 41st Street at 4 p.m. and marching up 40th Street to 633 Third Avenue (40th Street), where Cuomo’s office is located.
The traditional public school vs. charter school battle hits home in southwest Brooklyn, where CEC 20 an CEC 21 joined together to hold two protest rallies last month against plans approved by Mayor Bill de Blasio to allow charter schools to share space in Seth Low Intermediate School and Joseph Cavallaro Intermediate School, both in Bensonhurst.
The charter school sharing plan, known as a co-location, will result in both Seth Low and Cavallaro becoming overcrowded, parents charged.
“No decision is final!” CEC 21 President Heather Fiorica told the protesters at a rally outside Seth Low last month.
The state budget, which was enacted in Albany after negotiations among Cuomo, the state senate and the state assembly, contains details that should make parents whose children attend traditional public schools sit up take notice, according to the citywide protest organizers.
As an example, they pointed to the fact that charter schools are now by law entitled to increased funding, $500 per pupil, from the state between 2014 and 2018, as well as access to space in traditional public schools. Many schools are already operating at 96 percent capacity, the protesters said.
“It is the full on privatization of New York City’s public school system,” the protest sponsor charged.
Approximately 94 percent of the city’s public school youngsters attend traditional public schools. Charter schools account for six percent of the city’s public school population.
At the Bensonhurst co-location protests, parents expressed concern that the presence of a charter school would set up a two-tier class system in which the charter school’s students would be given the best of everything, including iPads, while their public school counterparts would be left to languish in overcrowded classrooms with outdated textbooks.