Thousands Call for More Charter Schools at Brooklyn Rally
Updated on September 29th
Brooklyn, New York
Being intelligent is now considered trendy.
That’s how Joel Torres, a ninth-grader from Achievement First University Prep in Brooklyn, described the school’s atmosphere. He remembered that when he was in elementary school, he would be ridiculed for being a nerd whenever he answered a question. However, that’s not the case at Achievement First, according to Joel.
His classmate, Alex Aybar, added that although students put in long hours, the opportunity to study science at Dartmouth College, like their current science teacher, makes it all worth it.
During a charter school rally in Prospect Park on Wednesday, the stories of Joel and Alex were celebrated by parents, students, educators, politicians, and advocates. The event, organized by Families for Excellent Schools, a pro-charter advocacy group, attracted a crowd of 25,000 people, including rapper and civil rights activist Common.
The rally aimed to rally support for expanding the city’s charter schools to accommodate 200,000 students, which is about one fifth of the total student population. The organizers believe that doubling the number of charter schools by 2020 will help close the achievement gap between different racial and ethnic groups.
In her speech, Achievement First East New York Middle School Principal, Fatimah Barker, acknowledged that there are still many children trapped in failing schools and called for the expansion of charter schools.
According to the NYC Charter School Center, approximately 44,400 students are currently waiting to enter one or more of New York City’s 212 charter schools. Attendees at the rally expressed their belief that charter schools provide an escape from underperforming neighborhood schools. Math and reading test scores have improved across the city in 2016 following changes to the tests, but charter school students consistently outperformed their peers in traditional public schools by 5 to 8 percentage points in both subjects.
Although Mayor Bill de Blasio has been at odds with charter operators and supporters, he attributed the stronger performance of charter schools to their emphasis on test preparation. However, he provided no evidence to support his claim. In an interview prior to the rally, de Blasio stated that his focus was on fixing the entire school system to benefit the 90% of students in traditional public schools.
Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, who has been considered a possible opponent to de Blasio, addressed the crowd and expressed his belief that charter schools are part of the solution to fixing failing schools. He emphasized the importance of providing options for all parents and children, regardless of race, color, ethnicity, immigration status, or ZIP code.
Parents at the rally praised the individualized attention that charter schools provide to their students. Diane Austin, whose daughter attended Achievement First Endeavor Charter School, shared how a face-to-face meeting with teachers and the principal helped identify her daughter’s struggles with writing. With increased support and attention from her teachers in this subject, her daughter’s behavior improved significantly.
While the opinions of the students varied, with some finding their classes challenging and others finding them relaxed, they all agreed that Common’s performance was the highlight of the day.
The hip-hop artist and performer grew up in the city of Chicago. During a time when the teachers were on strike, his mother made the decision to enroll him in a private school, where he was able to receive the necessary attention and support. Additionally, the singer is the founder of the Common Ground Foundation, an organization that provides assistance to young individuals living in inner-city areas.
During a recent event in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, the singers Common and Maimouna Youssef showcased their talents in support of charter schools. Common delighted the crowd by singing a number of songs and even invited students to join him on stage for breakdancing. Furthermore, he recited lyrics from his song "Black America Again" which shed light on important social issues such as mass incarceration and the lack of proper education for young individuals.
Ruben Diaz, the President of the Bronx Borough, shared his own personal experience as a parent who had the opportunity to choose the best schools for his children. He emphasized the importance of providing such opportunities for all children to ensure they receive an education that aligns with their character and personality.
Supporters of charter schools in New York City are pushing for an expansion in the number of students served by the year 2020, aiming for a target of 200,000. Their efforts were demonstrated in a rally held in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, where they voiced their commitment to providing quality education options for all students.
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