political science

Congressional hopeful Jeffries firms up charter school support

Dania Reid, of the Charter Parent Action Network, speaks at a town hall event with elected officials.

If charter school advocates had any concern that Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries wasn’t on their side, he lay their worries to rest last night.

Jeffries, a U.S. House of Representatives hopeful who has not always supported charter schools in his district, pledged his full-fledged support to charter school parents and backers at a town hall event hosted by the New York City Charter Center.

“The aspirations of parents such as yourself, who just want to find a vehicle to provide young children with the opportunity to get the best possible education … is one that I will always support, notwithstanding the consequences from those who may want to defend the status quo,” Jeffries said.

The event reflected a move among supporters of the city’s policy of closing struggling schools and replacing them with new options, including charter schools, to preempt the heated fights over co-location that engulfed the city last year. Nineteen new charter schools are slated to open in the city next year, and the city is hoping to house many of them in public school buildings.

Thursday’s event took place in Bedford-Stuyvesant’s New Beginnings Charter School, a second-year school located in a private facility owned by the Archdiocese of New York. It was the first such event organized by the center’s parent advocacy group, the Charter Parent Action Network. According to David Golovner, a vice president for the center, the network is working with parents in dozens of charter schools this year to help mobilize support in areas where charter schools are more densely located and where more are likely to open in the future.

“It comes down to the simple fact that these are public schools and screaming at somebody about a school isn’t the way to solve any problem,” Golovner said.

Golovner was joined by Cara Volpe, the center’s newly hired director to oversee relations between charter and district schools.

Jeffries was the lone elected official to attend the town hall, although staffers representing Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, City Councilman Al Vann and U.S. Rep. Ed Towns also participated. Recy Dunn, executive director of the charter school office at the Department of Education, also attended and spoke briefly.

Jeffries’ support of education reform issues has become more pronounced in recent months as he prepares a run at Towns’ seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Last year, Jeffries was an outspoken critic of the city Department of Education as the lead plaintiff on a lawsuit against Mayor Bloomberg’s appointment of Cathie Black to serve as chancellor. And as the DOE prepared to close a struggling middle school in Prospect Heights and replace it with a charter school, Jeffries attended a parent rally and pledged to fight the co-location with legal action.

But this summer, seeking to boost the profile of his newly announced campaign, Jeffries penned an op-ed explaining his opposition to a lawsuit against charter school co-locations. The move landed him on the “Hot List” maintained by Democrat for Education Reform and the group’s political action committee and its allies have since raised thousands of dollars for his campaign.

After the event, Jeffries repeated his support for charter school co-locations, saying they were important “given the reality that space is limited and real estate is so expensive.”

But he also criticized the DOE for not handling school space planning well in past years and said he hoped to see an improvement under new leadership.

“We’re hopeful that moving forward, under the leadership of Dennis Walcott, the approach that he takes will be more collaborative and less designed to create the types of conflicts that we’ve seen around co-locations in the past years,” Jeffries said.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at [email protected]

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”