Dear Commons Community,
Thousands of parents, students and teachers marched across the Brooklyn Bridge in a show of support yesterday for the city’s publicly funded, privately run charter schools. Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota also turned out for the demonstration that ended at City Hall Park, but families there were more interested in sending a message to frontrunner Bill de Blasio, who has vowed if elected to reverse the city’s policy of giving charters free space.
The issue of providing free space has been hotly contested especially since the mayoral candidates have stated their positions. Charter operators such as Eva Moskowitz who was one of the organizers of yesterday’s march have been most critical of de Blasio. Others including groups of public school parents have sued the NYC Department of Education over the free rent policy as a violation of NYS law. Article 56, Section 2853, Part 4(c) states: “A charter school may contract with a school district or the governing body of a public college or university for the use of a school building and grounds, the operation and maintenance thereof. Any such contract shall provide such services or facilities at cost.”
The NYC DOE provides free space and services for approximately 100 co-located charter schools. Using figures from the New York City Independent Budget Office, parents estimate that the space and services these charter schools currently receive is worth more than $100 million annually. Furthermore, this practice contributes to the fact that these schools receive about $2,000 dollars more per student in public funds annually than traditional public schools.
During Tuesday’s rally, marchers wore T-shirts and held signs with messages that included “Let My Children Learn” and the word “Rent” with a slash through it.
About a dozen counterprotesters brandished their own signs that read “Pay Your Rent.”