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Mayor de Blasio approves four charters to co-locate inside public schools

Khorri Atkinson

On the first day of the public school year, Mayor Bill de Blasio cautioned charter schools that if they aren’t aligned with his vision, he will not give them space in public schools. Less than a week later, he has decided to offer space to four charters to co-locate for the next school year.

Two of the approved schools, Success Academy Bronx 3 and Success Academy Bed-Stuy 1, which are adding third and fifth grades respectively for next year, are operated by de Blasio’s long-time political rival and former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz, who is the founder and CEO of Success Academy.

“We’re encouraged that the administration wants to work with public charter schools and make sure parents have great options for their children, regardless of ZIP code,” said Moskowitz in a statement. “We look forward to getting more details.”

The other two are Launch Expeditionary Learning Charter School, which is adding high school grades, and Bronx Charter School for Better Learning II, a new school run by New York City Charter School Center, which has close ties to de Blasio. The Department of Education said they didn’t find room for a fifth school, Global Community Charter School, which is currently housed in a private space in Harlem.

In last week’s announcement, the DOE did not include details about which public schools have been selected to open up space for the four charters.

De Blasio has been a critic of former Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s approach to co-locating privately owned charters inside public schools, given that they are privately owned but publicly financed and their teachers are not unionized. His charter school agenda was part of his mayoral campaign, where he promised to block charters from co-locating in public space. He denied space to three of Moskowitz’s schools in February, which sparked weeks of political debates and both anti- and pro-charter school demonstrations in Albany.

Two months later, Gov. Andrew Cuomo rebuked de Blasio’s charter school agenda when he signed a bill into law that mandates the city to pay rent for new or expanding charter schools if the city declined to provide the charter schools with space in the public schools they’ve requested.

In response to the law, which took effect immediately, de Blasio vowed to create co-location policy that mandates how charter schools will share space in public schools “effectively and fairly.”

In an unrelated press conference last week Friday, de Blasio told reporters that the DOE is still working on the policy and that they will issue a report soon.

“I disagree with the approach of the previous administration, and I’ve said we’ll have a brand-new policy. Until that policy is in place, we’re making decisions case by case.

“We’ve put forward some very clear rules. For example, we don’t want elementary schools in high schools, and we don’t want space taken away from special education children.”

De Blasio announced at Amber Charter School in Harlem at the start of the school year that he will provide space “as delineated in the state law.” But if he declined to provide space because it’s “not mutually satisfactory to our Department of Education and to the charter, then there’s the option to have a legal process, a court process. Everything is determined by available space to begin with.”

Unlike other charter schools he publicly criticized, Amber has unionized teachers and operates in private space. It is the first Latino-led charter school in New York, which also builds its curriculum on arts, music and technology. De Blasio said Amber is a true example of what all charter schools should be like.

Reportedly, there have been at least 16 co-location requests for 2015.