A day before a public hearing about a space-sharing proposal that would bring the Success Charter Network to Brownstone Brooklyn, advocates of an alternative plan took to the street to promote their idea.
The counter-proposal, made after the Department of Education announced it had chosen a Baltic Street school building for the charter school chain’s newest outpost, would use the space instead for a preschool.
Success Charter operator Eva Moskowitz suggested in the New York Post today that the counter-proposal came from the teachers union in an attempt to block her school from getting space in the building.
That’s “absolutely not true,” said Jeffrey Tripp, the UFT chapter leader at the School for International Studies, one of the schools in the building, at a press conference today. He said the preschool proposal is supported by a “grassroots movement.”
“I’m proud to be a member of the UFT but this [alternate proposal] is not something the UFT was behind,” he said.
The plan — for which DOE officials say no application has yet been received — was first floated by a retired DOE official and a local politician in response to the DOE’s plan to site Cobble Hill Success Academy in the building that International Studies shares with the School for Global Studies and a special education program. It’s also being supported by the Alliance for Quality Education, an advocacy group.
The dust-up has AQE, which typically advocates against school closures and co-locations on the grounds that they are unfair to poor and minority students, in the position of supporting a preschool program that would likely serve many affluent families.
Today, Assemblywoman Joan Millman explained that an early childhood center would serve children zoned for P.S. 261, P.S. 29, and P.S. 58, three popular neighborhood schools whose pre-K classes cannot accommodate every family that seeks a spot.
“I have noticed increasing numbers of parents who come to me and say they can’t get into local schools,” Millman told me.
Parents from some of those schools and others spoke at the press conference today, saying that the neighborhood needs both pre-K and middle school options. Putting pressure on the two secondary schools in the Baltic Street building would make them unlikely middle school destinations for local families in the future, they said. (The schools currently struggle to attract students from the immediate vicinity.)
Under the DOE’s space-sharing proposal, International Studies would go from 36 full-size and nine half-size classrooms to 21 full-size and four half-size classrooms. Global Studies would lose an even higher proportion of its classrooms, dropping to 15 full-size and five half-size classrooms from 32 and 11, respectively.
In contrast, parents and officials said today, an early childhood center would require just five classrooms and put little strain on shared spaces, meaning that International Studies’ culinary arts space and Global Studies’ new computer lab would not be in jeopardy.
Plus, students from the middle and high schools could volunteer in the preschool classes, suggested Melinda Martinez, the mother of four International Studies students. She said her oldest son selected the school because of its culinary arts program.
Several parents from the School for International Studies joined the press conference. No one from the School for Global Studies participated.
Millman told me that the controversy over Cobble Hill Success suggests that she and other legislators erred when writing the state’s charter school law in the 1990s. They should have allocated funding for charter schools to find space so they wouldn’t have to compete with traditional public schools, she said.
In District 15, where Cobble Hill is located, three of the four charter schools already open are either housed in private space or are in the process of constructing their own buildings.
A public hearing about the co-location will take place tomorrow at the Baltic Street building. The Panel for Educational Policy, the city’s school board, is scheduled to vote on the proposal next month. It has never rejected a DOE proposal.