The endless number of co-locations has exceeded the capacity of public school buildings and straining quality of life for city students. Some feel it will only end if Bill de Blasio becomes mayor.
Like many public school parents and veteran educators, Lynn Manuell is fed up with the special treatment granted charter schools during the Bloomberg era.
She’s tired of the endless co-locations of charters in regular public schools decreed by the bureaucrats at Tweed.
This is already a hot issue in the race for mayor.
And it is bound to get hotter, given Democrat Bill de Blasio’s promise of a moratorium on co-locations and Republican Joe Lhota’s appearance this week at a protest organized by charter school advocates.
More importantly, de Blasio has vowed to follow state law and insist that charter schools pay rent when they use public school buildings.
Public school advocates claim the city has ignored that law, and a court suit over the matter is still unresolved.
Meanwhile, special ed teacher Manuell has witnessed the inequities of charter school co-locations first hand.
For the past 11 years, she’s taught theater arts to autistic and emotionally disturbed children at Mickey Mantle, a special education public school in Harlem.
When she started there, her students, pre-K to fourth-graders, were already sharing a sprawling blocklong building with PS 149.
“Still, we had our own cafeteria, playground, library, and cluster rooms (for specialized activities),” she says. So both schools got along.
Then in 2006, a charter school arrived, Harlem Success Academy. It was the flagship school for what has mushroomed into a chain of 18 schools run by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz’s Success Charter Network, all of them co-located in public schools.
“We lost our library and a bunch of classrooms that year,” Manuell says.
The following year, as Harlem Success increased its enrollment, Mickey Mantle was ordered to give up more space.
“We lost our technology room, our music room, our art room and we had to start sharing the cafeteria, the gym and playground,” Manuell says.
Moskowitz notes her schools boast among the highest standardized test scores in the city.
Less publicized is how flush they are with cash, thanks to federal funding and private and foundation donations. They hold more than $35 million in reserves, their most recent financial reports show.
Manuell has been relegated to teaching theater at Mickey Mantle in a former office with no windows. A fellow teacher conducts four periods a week of gym in a regular classroom because so little time has been allotted in the main gym to the Mickey Mantle pupils.
“After a few years, I thought we were finally cool, that we would at least keep the rest of our space,” Manuell says.
No such luck. Not with Bloomberg determined to leave behind a slew of rent-free charters in public school buildings.
Among the latest co-locations up for approval this month, Tweed wants to admit up to 375 middle-school pupils to Manuell’s school over the next several years. They will come from another Moskowitz school, Harlem Success 4.
As for the Mickey Mantle school, 20% of its enrollment will be cut. Even with that reduction, officials concede the building may reach 130% of capacity.
No wonder the local Community Education Council and some Harlem politicians blasted the plan at a public hearing Thursday.
Their only hope for bringing equity back to our public schools, they figure, is if de Blasio wins the mayor’s race .