Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Contentious Crown Heights Links: Bike Corrals and Charter Schools

(the much-discussed bike corral)

Some things that came through ILFA's inbox over the past few days - there is, as always, much to be discussed:

- Local journalist Maya Lau, who contributed a review of Catfish to ILFA in January, wrote an article about the bike corral spat for the NYT's CityRoom blog. 94 comments and counting...

- The Root talked to Congresswoman Yvette Clarke about the challenges Caribbean immigrants face in Brooklyn (this issue is certainly contentious at the national level, but this article isn't, particularly). 

- Anticipating future spats, DNA Info voiced concerns about the timing of the CHCA's upcoming Town Hall meeting (planned, in part, to address issues raised in connection with the bike corral).

- LaunchPad has another great slate of events coming up this weekend, including performances, live jazz, and improv comedy (which can sometimes be contentious - I'm reaching here, but wanted to give them a shout). 

- The WAGPOPS (Williamsburg and Greenpoint Parents for Our Public Schools) passed this email regarding charter co-locations along. The Brooklynians have been discussing these issues for some time.  

Dear parents and school communities,

You may have been contacted by Citizens of the World Charter Schools recently to enroll your child in their lottery or help them spread the word about their schools opening in Crown Heights and Williamsburg.

We are concerned about the misinformation you may have received about Citizens of the World Charter Schools (CWC) and urge you to find out more before applying to CWC or offering them a platform to speak to your communities.

Hundreds of local parents have launched a lawsuit against the SUNY charter school authorizers to stop CWC from opening. Here's the paperwork on our lawsuit:   http://www.scribd.com/doc/122236115/WAGPOPS-lawsuit-against-SUN

Every elected official in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, including US Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, NYState Senator Martin Dilan, NYState Assemblymen Joe Lentol, City Councilmember Steve Levin, City Councilmember Diana Reyna, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Community Education Council 14, District Leadership Council 14, and Community Board 1, oppose Citizens of the World Charter Schools.

As of two weeks ago, articles that criticized CWC became harder to find (unless you google "Citizens of the World" with "scandals" or "segregation"). Enrollment in the CWC lottery is approaching and CWC does not want parents to know the reasons why parents have been trying to stop them from opening.

The story of how CWC came to Brooklyn:

A Village Voice article about CWC and Success Academy:

NYC Public School Parents' take on CWC - exposing corruption, financial instability, management issues, and the impact on nearby neighborhood public schools:

An interview and background on WAGPOPS!:

Two articles about CWC relating to how their choice leads to our segregated schools:

An article from a Los Angeles parent fighting Citizens of the World Silver Lake
http://echopark.patch.com/blog_posts/blog-got-school with a follow up article from a charter school founder http://echopark.patch.com/blog_posts/blog-charter-school-founder-sounds-off-on-the-impact-of-charter-schools

We encourage you to consider your neighborhood schools. You'll find that even though your neighborhood public schools don't have fancy Powerpoint presentations or a marketing/PR budget of almost $150,000 (that's the CWC marketing/PR budget using our tax dollars), they do offer a constructivist curriculum, diversity in the classroom, arts/science/sports, balanced literacy, project based learning, and the opportunity to genuinely engage with your child's school. 

Our lawsuit is pending.  In the mean time, public school families in Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and across NYC rely on the support of other parents and community members  to preserve the promise of public education to serve all of our children and ensure that every neighborhood public school is excellent.

Should you have any questions or want more information, please don't hesitate to email us.

Kind regards,

Williamsburg and Greenpoint Parents: Our Public Schools!
Representing parents from PS31, PS34, PS110, PS414, PS84, PS147, PS380, PS132, IS318, JHS126, etc.,


  1. Only anti-CWC links? So far many of the comments and articles are vacuous and paranoid sounding (coming for our children, racist, militant abusers), and makes me want to look into CWC as a potential valid option since you gotta question really why the anti-CWC are so crazed. Maybe they're justified, but hopefully concerned parents will give a balanced look into whats at stake here before killing something new. I know I will, and actively support them if necessary. You might have created a future supporter out of me with the biased links. Did you do your homework before posting?

    1. You'll note I posted this as an email/press release sent around by an interested group, who have commented below. If CWC (or you) would like to send along similar materials, I'm happy to post them as well.

  2. From what I understand, when a charter school applies to the DOE, they can make a request for a certain district but it is ultimately decided by DOE, as is the actual location. I only read the Village Voice article (thinking it would be the most balanced of those linked to), but I think it creates the erroneous impression that the charter school organizations themselves are strategically invading certain public schools in order to tap into a growing white population. Some would argue that it is the City's strategy to perpetuate that impression to take the heat off of themselves, but it is actually a DOE choice, presumably based on what public schools have extra space because of under-enrollment.
    Note that the Crown Heights CWC is going to be in the southeastern portion of the neighborhood, not the quickly "gentrifying" western portion. That does not suggest a CWC-DOE conspiracy to draw white students away from local public schools. I don't think many affluent white families on the border of Prospect Heights are going to want to take the subway to Utica to put their children in a charter school.

    1. The process of opening a charter is this: a charter school applies to SUNY and they get accepted if they look good on paper - a process that claims to be much more rigorous than it actually plays out. Then, NYC DOE will offer rent free public space to all of the schools SUNY approves. According the NYC DOE, "underutilized space" includes libraries, science labs, music rooms, art rooms, gyms, and mixed use space for kids with special needs - all the stuff that makes a school special for the children who attend that school.

      Nowhere in this process is there a discussion of enrollment trends, educational landscape, or impact on the area.

      The reality for NYC public schools, particularly in Brooklyn's gentrifying areas, is that "diversity" generally means white, affluent families, and there's only so much diversity to go around. When we create schools for white, affluent families (& mind you, CWC is not a better school than PS705 or PS9 or plenty of other schools beginning to attract diversity - they just have a big marketing budget), these charter schools serve to reverse the trend of integrating classrooms in neighborhood public schools.

    2. I know very little about CWC and take no position on its merits relative to any public schools. I also fully understand and sympathize with the concerns of WAGPOPS with respect to the effects of the Williamsburg CWC on District 14 schools.However, the Crown Heights CWC is unlikely to draw families away from PS 9 (which is not even in our district) or 705. The location identified for CWC is very far away from those other schools, and given the demographics of its surrounding area, it seems unlikely that CWC will be able to attract too many white families at all -- if it does, it would be people living close to the school. There is a recognized dearth of desirable public school options in District 17 (certainly a dearth of schools with diverse populations). The introduction of CWC in Crown Heights may simply provide another option to families in that community, which may or may not be "better" than existing public schools. This situation is quite different from Williamsburg/Greenpoint and I would urge families in our area to consider those differences before opposing any new charter school.

    3. We are firm believers that the decision to open up a new school with tax dollars should be made using smart city planning for each area, and WAGPOPS does not know D17.

      That said, the financial scandals attached to the school along with Citizens of the World Charter School's unethical and racist practices in our district should give pause to anyone in any district. And the ire that this co-location has inspired in PS221's school community should be acknowledged.

      Here's the single link about the financial scandals.


      More has since surfaced, not the least of which is that out of all the PR firms they could have hired, they hired one responsible for fleecing the city of LA out of hundreds of thousands of dollars (http://articles.latimes.com/2005/jun/10/local/me-fleishman10)

      We know what works with public schools - small class sizes, arts/sports, afterschool, strong leadership, and experienced teachers - are paramount.

      Last year the NYC DOE cut 11 teachers from PS221, where they will co-locate "Citizens of the World."

      Offering this "choice," of a school that will (like every Brooklyn charter school) enroll less English Language Learners, kids with special needs, and kids in high poverty, is a profound disservice to any community.

  3. Anonymous,

    Opening these schools has nothing to do with democratic city planning and everything to do with a larger agenda to privatize public education at the expense of our kids.

    What's happening in Williamsburg & Greenpoint and now Crown Heights, is happening across NYC, the state, and the country, as public education is being out-sourced to privatizers with no accountability to the public.

    This charter school (along with many others) has faced significant community opposition, but received support from a mayor and state interest in privatizing the public commons. Parents don't have the lobbying money to fight this.

    CWC Williamsburg, unless our lawsuit stops them, will co-locate in the only middle school in Greenpoint - a short walk from several "Blue Ribbon" and "A" elementary schools, all of which have plenty of space for more children. CWC Williamsburg will, whether intentionally or not, will re-segregate neighborhood schools (and ensure continued segregation in already segregated schools) in Williamsburg.

    CWC Crown Heights was approved in a last minute bait and switch by the NYC DOE without any outreach in the Crown Heights community or discussion around how enrollment will be impacted.

    We encourage everyone to research "Citizens of the World Charter Schools." That's why we are offering parents the information that has been censored by the Search Engine Optimizers the PR firm for CWC hired.

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