The gloves are coming off in the City Council.
Brooklyn City Councilmen Vincent Gentile, David Greenfield and Mark Treyger blasted Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Department of Education today for failing to halt a slew of co-locations in their districts.
The Department of Education announced earlier today that they would be pulling the plug on nine previously approved school co-locations, including three charter schools–drawing praise from the teachers’ union and fire from charter advocates, who charge the decision will leave thousands of children fighting for alternate space come September.
But the three Brooklyn Democrats contend the mayor did not go far enough, allowing another 36 of the 45 planned co-locations weighed by the administration to move forward.
“If the overarching consideration is what’s in the best interest of the students, then we should deny these charters entry into District 21,” Mr. Gentile said in a statement to Politicker, referring to the school district that covers Bensonhurst, Brighton Beach and Coney Island. “I am very disappointed because the decision to co-locate Coney Island Prep with I.S. 281 does not square with the facts as we presented.”
Mr. Gentile, an early de Blasio endorser during the mayoral race, argued that the public school, I.S. 281, is already overcrowded and unable to handle the burden of a charter school.
“Therefore, one must question the motivation behind wanting to expand within the public school system when they already have all the space they need a nearby private school,” he added.
Mr. Greenfield raged against another planned co-location of a charter school at I.S. 96 in Bensonhurst, vowing to fight the decision “tooth and nail.”
“I am extremely disappointed in the decision to allow the co-location of a charter school at I.S 96 that our district does not need or want,” Mr. Greenfield said. “This co-location will come at the expense of the school’s dedicated staff and hard-working students. It’s no secret that the only reason this charter school was approved was because of political reasons by Chancellor Dennis Walcott to satisfy a powerful charter school operator.”
And Mr. Treyger, a former public schools teacher, ripped the two co-locations as well.
“The co-location of Cavallaro [I.S. 281] is simply not feasible. Do the math. Cavallaro does not have the space to accommodate another school,” Mr. Treyger said. “It will be a detriment to Cavallaro and the incoming charter school that will create an unsafe environment for our children. In regards to Seth Low [I.S. 96], Success Academy [the charter school] has not attended a single public hearing on the proposed co-location and has shown a lack of respect for all stakeholders involved.”
Democrat-on-Democrat attacks in the city have been extremely rare since Mr. de Blasio took office, with even Republican council members reluctant to hit the new administration.
Mr. de Blasio responded with a statement defending the decisions and promising “a new approach” in the future “that truly engages parents and the communities to ensure their voices are heard.”
“We are turning the page on the divisive policies of the past, even as we work with the difficult hand we’ve been dealt,” he said. “As a public school parent, I am committed to a fundamentally different way of making decisions about co-locations, and that’s a commitment shared by the longtime teacher now leading our school system. We made clear from the outset we would carefully review all of the proposals rushed through in the waning days of the past administration. We set out consistent, objective criteria to protect school communities from unworkable outcomes. And today, we are taking the best possible path forward, rejecting those proposals that do not meet our values, and working with school communities on those proposals that can be implemented responsibly. With these decisions, we are doing right by the most students and the most families.
Update (6:59 p.m.): Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito also sounded a note of caution in a statement reacting to the move.
“I am concerned about the fact that the vast majority of co-locations approved by the previous administration will be moving ahead as proposed, but remain confident that we can work with the de Blasio administration to reach the right balance,” the close de Blasio ally said in a statement. “What we must do is ensure that students, teachers and principals are a part of the decision-making process for their school communities so they know their voices and opinions are valued. I am looking forward to working with my colleagues in the Council and the administration as we seek to ensure quality education for all of New York’s children.”