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At charter school forum parents, students get real

It’s become nearly impossible to get charter schools advocates and opponents in the same room or TV studio without someone pointing a finger and someone snarking back. But WNYC education reporter Beth Fertig got beyond the noise this week by talking to the parents, students, and teachers who operate outside of the political echo chamber.

Two charter schools and two district schools participated in the forum. Both sets of schools share building space — and peaceably at that. P.S. 242 is co-located with the Future Leaders Institute (FLI) charter school in Harlem and I.S. 217 with the South Bronx Classical charter school.

Parents, students and teachers discussed everything from school uniforms, to discipline, to how many special education and English language learners charter schools serve. When the numbers of students living in homeless shelters enrolled at the district schools versus the charter schools were compared, the difference was significant. For example, FLI charter school has six homeless students, whereas P.S. 242 has 28. DOE Charter School Office Director Michael Duffy noted that it’s difficult for parents of children in shelters to apply to charter schools when they don’t know where they’ll be living from month to month.

Here are two parents on the subject of special education enrollment:

Parent of a P.S. 242 student:

Say for instance I have a child who has special needs, okay? And from all the literature and newspaper reports, there are some charter schools that don’t take kids with special needs. Or maybe they might take them and then find out they might be a problem and they choose not to keep them. I have heard stories. Whereas public school, we take all children. We can’t differentiate and say no you can’t come here because you lack this or have that or can’t perform so we are dedicated to providing a solid education for all children no matter what.

Parent of a South Bronx Classical student:

I have a child with special needs and it’s because of the charter school I was able to get help. I mean as a mother of a child with ADHD I didn’t even want to deal with the fact that he had it you know — not my child. And it was because of the care and concern that the school gave to me that I was able to even see that this was a situation with the child, so I don’t know about any other charter schools, but I know South Bronx charter school definitely does not discriminate on that.

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