Policy panel rejects parent protests
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Over the loud objections of parents and teachers from Seth Low Intermediate School, the New York City Panel for Educational Policy voted to approve a controversial plan to house a Success Academy charter school at the Bensonhurst location.
The vote took place at the panel’s meeting on Oct. 15 at Prospect Heights High School.
The outcome of the vote marked a sharp repudiation of the protests that have been waged over the past month by parents, teachers, lawmakers, and members of the Community Education Council of School District 21 against the co-location plan.
Hundreds of protesters turned out for the panel’s Oct. 15 meeting. The opponents had also come out in force back on Sept. 30, for a New York City Department of Education (DOE) public hearing at Seth Low IS, at 99 Avenue P.
Opponents charged that the charter school will take away classroom space from Seth Low students and prevent the school from expanding its enrichment programs in the arts. Parents also expressed concern that the presence of the 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everything, including iPads, while their Seth Low counterparts would be left to languish in overcrowded classrooms with outdated textbooks.
Seth Low IS doesn't have the room to accommodate students from two schools, opponents said. A DOE report disputed that contention, saying that Seth Low IS is underutilized and has more than enough room.
Teachers charged that charter schools, which are public schools that operate independently with a specific set of goals and are funded in large part through private corporations, have an unfair advantage over regular public schools.
“They don’t have to accept every student. They can pick and choose,” one Seth Low teacher said. “So, of course, their tests scores are going to be better. We have to teach all students at all levels,” she said.
“Why put a charter school in a neighborhood that didn’t want one? It doesn’t make any sense,” Councilman David Greenfield (D-Borough Park-Bensonhurst-Midwood) told DOE officials at the Sept. 30 public hearing.
But proponents maintain that charter schools offer parents a real choice it comes to the education of their children. It’s unfair to force parents to stay with poor performing public schools, charter school proponents said.
The panel’s Oct. 15 vote clears the way for the DOE to set aside space inside Seth Low IS to accommodate Success Academy, starting in September of 2014. Success Academy will educate children from kindergarten through fourth grade and will accept students via a lottery system, similar to the enrollment process at other charter schools.
Success Academy will accept one grade at a time, starting with pre-kindergarten children. As that grade moves up, the next grade will be enrolled behind them.
It’s unclear whether Success Academy will take up an entire floor in the building, or of it will be scattered throughout Seth Low IS.
The proposal, however, is contingent upon Success Academy being granted a charter by the State University of New York (SUNY).
Protesters vowed to keep up the fight against the co-location. There was talk of filing a lawsuit against the city to prevent Success Academy from moving in.
In previous articles on this issue, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle incorrectly reported that the Panel for Educational Policy vote was scheduled to take place on Oct. 30. We regret the error.