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Report offers criticism, recommendations for co-location policies

Charter schools in public school buildings are here to stay, but the city’s divisive policy for carrying out those plans has to go.

That’s the position of a report released today by Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, whose office studied co-location proposals for controversial charter schools and concluded that the Department of Education’s planning processes were still fundamentally flawed.

The report, titled “Consensus For Reform: A Plan For Collaborative School Co-Locations,” says the DOE misrepresented planning documents and ignored community criticism on its way to “bulldoz(ing) through the process of co-locating schools.”

It’s the second straight year that the public advocate examined how “major changes” in school buildings were implemented by the DOE. Last year’s report focused also on closures and followed a lawsuit that reversed DOE plans to phase out 19 schools.

De Blasio released this year’s report just days before a ruling on another lawsuit is expected, this one targeting 15 charter school co-locations. Two of the charter schools listed in the lawsuit – Upper West Success and Teaching Firms of America – were case studies in the report.

The report acknowledged that the DOE has “made improvements toward clarifying its proposals and explaining its decisions to better inform parents of proposed changes.”

But the process can still improve, and De Blasio’s report offered eight recommendations to improve how the city implemented school-sharing proposals. They included partnerships with independent urban planners to improve the accuracy of Educational Impact Statements, and earlier and deeper engagement with parents impacted by the changes.

De Blasio said he supports co-locations as a general policy, but said the most troublesome plans involve charter schools.

“Some of the decision-making has been worst and most reckless when it comes to that particular dynamic,” de Blasio said today at a press conference presenting his report.

“The DOE’s policies are actually fostering divison and conflict, largely between charter parents and traditional public school parents,” he added.

Nearly half of all of the city’s public schools – 751 – are co-located. Less than twenty percent include charter schools.

In a statement, Chancellor Dennis Walcott said the DOE was looking to “refine” how it handled co-location processes, but did not address any specific recommendations listed in the report.

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