State Senator Kevin Parker of Brooklyn meets with charter school students at the Brooklyn Museum of Art last night (Philissa Cramer/GothamSchools) Charter school boosters are often seen throwing compliments at Mayor Bloomberg. So yesterday it was a little surprising to hear a state senator, Kevin Parker, in one breath sing the charter gospel and in the next lambaste the Bloomberg administration for its management of the public schools. At Brooklyn Charter School Night yesterday, Parker told me that his position isn't really a contradiction. Everything he loves about charter schools, he said — their freedom from bureaucratic restrictions, their creative spirit — is absent from traditional public schools. And he said that charter schools' long waiting lists reflect families' frustrations with district-run public schools.
I mentioned in a previous post that two charter school students from Harlem were among those testifying in favor of extending term limits at the City Council earlier this month. Their school head, Seth Andrew of Democracy Prep, sent me their testimonies, which he said they drafted on their own, on blank pieces of paper, by hand. Andrew said the students had the opportunity to testify either for or against extending term limits. Both came out in favor. (Not a surprise, since Andrew also said that his students testified at the invitation of James Merriman, the executive director of the New York City Center for Charter School Excellence and a political ally of Mayor Bloomberg.) The testimonies are worth a read. Here's how seventh-grader Daniel Clarke Jr. explained the connection between term limits and education: Well, this chancellor has made a lot of progress in seven years, but he’s not done…YET. My school goes from grade 6 to 8 right now, but we are supposed to grow all the way to grade 12. Unfortunately, we can’t do this without a public school building, and this chancellor says he wants to give us one. He wants to close bad traditional schools and grow good ones like mine. If you pass this bill, my school will have a chance to take me all the way to college. If you don’t, the progress can’t continue and my school might not be able to grow. But I deserve a great high school, and there aren’t any others in my neighborhood like Democracy Prep that are open to all kids. Term limits prevent my family from having a choice, both in schools and in mayors and what we need are more choices, not fewer. This bill is not about Mayor Bloomberg or the City Council; it is about giving our community choice, voice, and progress for the kids of New York City. Thank you for Listening, I’m Daniel Clark Jr. The full testimonies are after the jump.
Schnur is the gray-haired man on the right (via Flickr) Jason Horowitz has a story in the Observer this week wondering which New Yorkers could be going to Washington if Barack Obama wins the presidency, as it looks like he might. Here's a name I didn't see on Horowitz's list: Jon Schnur, the cofounder and CEO of the Manhattan-based nonprofit New Leaders for New Schools. Schnur has been taking time off lately to campaign for Obama, work that has included guest-blogging, debating, and meeting with like-minded, education-inclined fundraisers in fancy Manhattan apartments. (I don't have a link for that last one but can testify it did happen at least once; I was there.) Schnur is one of the main players in the quiet battle among Obama's education advisers which I am told is still raging even this close to the election. Schnur is the leader of the mostly younger "entrepreneurial" set who sympathize with the efforts of Teach For America founder Wendy Kopp and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein — and who likely were not too pleased when the leader of the other group, Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond, criticized Teach For America at a recent Teachers College debate where she was speaking on behalf of Obama.