New Report Reveals de Blasio Administration Has Systematically Denied Charter Schools Public Space Since 2014
City’s Rejections Have Posed Major Challenges for NYC Families and Charter Leaders, Kept Schools from Reaching More High-Need Communities
School Leaders Join Dozens of Parents on City Hall Steps to Demand City Stop Denying Charters Space
Full Report Linked Here: Pathtopossible.org/spacetolearn
New York, NY – A new report released Thursday revealed that the de Blasio administration has denied 79% of public charter school requests for public facilities since the passage of the landmark 2014 facilities access law. This policy has posed massive challenges for New York City’s public charter schools, many of which have been delayed from opening new locations in the city’s high-need communities after being denied public space.
In 2014, Mayor de Blasio blocked the planned expansion of one charter middle school and the planned opening of two new charter elementary schools. In doing so, he left 194 low-income students from the top-performing middle school in Harlem with no other choice but to attend a failing district school. In response to the Mayor’s actions, New York State passed a law ensuring that public charters would have fair access to available public space.
Since then, New York City’s public charter schools have submitted 105 requests for public facilities, of which 79 percent were rejected by the City. In 90 percent of these cases, however, City data shows there was more than enough space to site a charter school in public space.
When charters appealed these 83 rejections to the New York State Education Department, NYSED ruled against the de Blasio administration almost 95% of the time – meaning that the state acknowledged the validity of the charters’ applications for public space and granted them rental assistance under the 2014 law.
First-hand accounts from charter school leaders reveal that the city’s policy has had a damaging impact on their school communities:
“We were going to have to tell over 200 families ‘sorry, there’s no place for you to go’. It was devastating; we had our school on the chopping block. We had to hold a meeting with families to tell them we might not have a school for their kids,” said Ian Rowe, CEO of the Public Preparatory Network. Public Prep was denied space repeatedly by the de Blasio administration after being approved for a co-location by the Bloomberg administration. After Public Prep won their NYSED appeal and secured private space, they almost lost their lease when DOE contested the state’s decision.
“Our inability to access a permanent home has taken a toll,” said Matthew Levey, founding Executive Director of the International Charter School of New York (ICS). “This is the number one anxiety for our parents. And it comes up in every prospective parent tour as well.” ICS has applied for public space several times, but has been denied each time by the de Blasio administration. Today, ICS is forced to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in private funds to pay rent on their building, which does not have a gym, auditorium, playground, or cafeteria, and cannot accommodate their full enrollment.
“It was devastating to look families in the eye and tell them that we didn’t have room for their children,” said Lester Long, Founder and Executive Director of South Bronx Classical Charter School (SBCC). After being denied space by the de Blasio administration, SBCC secured private space in a building designed to be a culinary school. Due to the limitations of their private space, SBCCS was forced to cut down their enrollment to fit within the available space. Instead of a planned 90 seats in their most recent lottery, they could only admit 30 new students. SBCCS had over 2,000 applications for those 30 seats.
On Thursday afternoon, dozens of parents joined Rowe and Levey on the steps of City Hall and demanded an end to the unequal status quo enforced by the city. Parents recounted the emotional toll of seeing their children denied suitable space to learn.
“South Bronx Classical Three serves some of the neediest kids in New York City, but the de Blasio administration treats them as if they aren’t a part of his public school system,” said Petra Milteer, a public charter school parent from the Bronx. “Once the DOE forced the school into private space, the only option was a small former culinary school – twenty five feet from a slaughterhouse.”
New York City’s public charter schools currently serve over 100,000 students each year, but more than 44,000 children remain on charter waiting lists. To satisfy this demand for high-quality public school options and close the citywide achievement gap that separates low-income children of color from their wealthier peers, the public charter sector has long sought to serve more of the city’s highest-need students.
“Though his tactics are more subtle than in 2014, this report makes it clear that Mayor de Blasio is still committed to denying public charters the space they need to serve the city’s highest-need students.” said Jeremiah Kittredge, CEO of Families for Excellent Schools. “The Mayor should stop standing in the way of those voting with their feet, honor the 2014 facilities law, and make public space available to these great public schools.”