Opinion

Space for public charter schools would bring opportunity to the Bronx

By Marcos Crespo |  

December 6, 2017 |  

Assemblyman Marcos Crespo (Celeste Sloman)

The New York City public education system is experiencing a crisis. Families of color do not have many options for quality district middle schools, which essentially places children of color at a severe disadvantage.

Of the 12 district middle schools in my own Assembly district, where most students are black and Hispanic, the majority of kids are unfortunately below grade level in both reading and math. Taking into account that there are very few options and keeping in mind that parents ultimately want their sons and daughters to thrive, it should be simple to understand that families should be able to seek other alternatives such as charter schools.

Although the concept is straightforward, one issue still remains. Public charter schools that offer other options in the Bronx and across the city do not have the capacity to take in all of those families who decide to explore other options, making it so that their children are forced to attend underperforming district middle schools.

Groups like Success Academy Charter Schools and Bronx Charter School for the Arts are working to address the disparity, beginning with the addition of two new public charter middle schools in the Bronx proposed to open in 2018. Although two new schools may not seem like a lot, they will certainly have a huge impact on the families in my borough: More than 1,000 kids already enrolled at Success Academy Bronx 3, Success Academy Bronx 4 and Bronx Charter School for the Arts will now have the chance to continue receiving a proven quality education.

New York City should not impede any school from establishing itself, especially when there is a shortage and most importantly a need. Yet the city missed deadline after deadline as it relates to finding public space for the public charter middle schools, even though there are more than 65,000 empty seats in underutilized school buildings across the city.

In addition, two weeks ago, the city announced it had found space for these schools, but a problem still stands: Its offer does not provide space for anywhere close to all of the students in need. Success Academy alone will need room for 8,000 middle school students over the coming years – a reality that the city must acknowledge.

What this ultimately means is that parents and educators face the fact that year after year there will be a shortage of space. Parents and students do not deserve to deal with that kind of uncertainty; instead, students should be able to attend a great public school with peace of mind.

As an elected representative who believes that a public official’s first duty is to their constituents, as a Bronxite who wishes for a solution and as a father committed to providing my daughters with the best education, I urge our city leaders to do the right thing by providing public charter school students across New York City with the space they need to learn – not just for one year, but for many years to come.

Assemblyman Marcos Crespo represents District 85 in the Bronx.

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