New York

Wayback Wednesday: And then there were charter schools

The Gothamschools Time Machine

When Mayor Bloomberg held a press conference in the Bronx this week to celebrate the opening of 18 new charter schools this fall, the largest number ever in the city in one year, the news almost didn’t seem like news. After all, charter schools have opened in New York City every year during the administration of this mayor.

But it wasn’t so long ago that the city’s first-ever charters opened — just nine years ago, in fact. On Sept. 8, 1999, the New York Times reported that the city’s first two charters, Sisulu Children’s Academy and John A. Reisenbach Charter School in Harlem, were open for business:

A year ago, [the 1,000 families enrolling at the state’s three charter schools], many of them among the state’s poorest and most disadvantaged, would have had no choice but to go to traditional public schools. They switched because they are searching for new hope for their children, and because educators and politicians have given them faith that charter schools can cure everything that the stereotype says public schools lack: good teachers, higher test scores, discipline and safety.

It is far too soon to say whether charter schools, which are publicly financed but free of the Board of Education control and union rules, will work or be one more broken promise for families who feel they have been betrayed before.

But the dreams of parents and educators are just one face of the fledgling charter school movement. As Loretta’s new school, the Sisulu Children’s Academy, opens today, a day ahead of other New York City public schools, it is also the story of millions of taxpayer dollars going to a private start-up company with no track record.

Nine years later, the city has 78 charters with more opening every year. And yet the question posed back in 1999 about whether the new kind of schools would prove a salvation or “one more broken promise” — or somewhere in between — is still being asked. Certainly, however, the city’s first two charter schools were not the panacea their backers hoped: the state shuttered Reisenbach in 2004, when its original charter expired, and Sisulu barely escaped the ax at the time; it’s still open in Harlem.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.