Dania Reid, of the Charter Parent Action Network, speaks at a town hall event with elected officials.
If charter school advocates had any concern that Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries wasn't on their side, he lay their worries to rest last night.
Jeffries, a U.S. House of Representatives hopeful who has not always supported charter schools in his district, pledged his full-fledged support to charter school parents and backers at a town hall event hosted by the New York City Charter Center.
"The aspirations of parents such as yourself, who just want to find a vehicle to provide young children with the opportunity to get the best possible education ... is one that I will always support, notwithstanding the consequences from those who may want to defend the status quo," Jeffries said.
The event reflected a move among supporters of the city's policy of closing struggling schools and replacing them with new options, including charter schools, to preempt the heated fights over co-location that engulfed the city last year. Nineteen new charter schools are slated to open in the city next year, and the city is hoping to house many of them in public school buildings.
Thursday's event took place in Bedford-Stuyvesant's New Beginnings Charter School, a second-year school located in a private facility owned by the Archdiocese of New York. It was the first such event organized by the center's parent advocacy group, the Charter Parent Action Network. According to David Golovner, a vice president for the center, the network is working with parents in dozens of charter schools this year to help mobilize support in areas where charter schools are more densely located and where more are likely to open in the future.
An initiative designed to ease tension between district and charter schools in the city has moved slowly and largely under the radar this spring.
In December, then-Chancellor Joel Klein joined 88 of the city’s charter schools in signing on to a District-Charter Collaboration Compact, which mandates that charter schools “fulfill their role as laboratories of innovation” and requires the Department of Education to support city charter schools. The compact, which the Gates Foundation urged and is funding, emphasizes collaboration around issues of enrollment, space allocation, and instruction.
But after more than six months — which were bookended by Klein’s sudden departure and a contentious lawsuit over charter school co-location — little progress has been made toward fulfilling the compact’s requirements. In June, the New York City Charter School Center took a first step by hiring Cara Volpe, a former Teach for America employee, to be the city’s first district-charter collaboration manager.
Later, a not-yet-formed advisory council of district and charter school employees will help Volpe set priorities, according to city and charter school officials.
Volpe “will be expected to implement the council’s vision for identifying, establishing and implementing the partnerships, policies and programs that will help tear down the boundaries between great district and charter schools,” according to advertisement for the position, which the charter center posted online at GothamSchools’ jobs board, Idealist, and elsewhere.
Volpe’s work will come at a time when tensions around charter schools are at an all-time high.