Citizens of the World charter: parent choice or segregation?


Both nationally and locally,charter schools have been found to lead to more segregationin our public schools. The following is by Brooke Parker, one of the founders of Williamsburg and Greenpoint Parents for Our Public Schools (WAGPOPS), about a new charter chain that has applied to SUNY start in her district.  Instructions on how to send in your comments to the SUNY Board of Trustees are below; the deadline for public comments is May 21.
On the eve of the anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education, the NY Times article on Explore Charter School's almost exclusively African American student population received over 400 comments.  The issue of segregation in schools is a hot topic right now as more and more reports are coming out revealing charter schools as profoundly segregated.
District 14, encompassing the neighborhoods of Williamsburg, Greenpoint, parts of Bed Stuy and Bushwick, is giving this issue a neo-liberal spin.  District 14 was "selected" by Citizens of the World Charter Schools(CWCS), a brand new chain of charter schools coming out of California, to receive two of their charter schools precisely because they "seek to establish schools in districts that have a variety of races, cultures, and incomes."  But CWCS isn't really interested in the variety of races, cultures, and incomes that we have in Williamsburg, unless they are middle to upper class and from a variety of European or Asian backgrounds.  The message that our District 14 Latino community received from CWCS outreach? Puerto Ricans and Dominicans need not apply. 
CWCS met with families in baby boutiques, yoga studios, and luxury condominiums along the waterfront.  The announcements for these meetings were made on a private listserv.  If you weren't part of a particular network of parents, you would never know about them. The 724-page proposal for CWCS quotes parents as saying, “Children need to be in a school where they don’t just sit there; they need continuous engagement.” Another parent commented on his/her own experience in school and stated, “I never learned how to think creatively in school. CWC presents that opportunity.”  This demand for creativity and real engagement is in sharp contrast to the harsh discipline provided in Explore Charter School, or Success Academy, or KIPP (Kids in Prison Program), or Achievement First.  White middle class parents generally want their kids to go to more progressive schools than schools offering a "pedagogy of poverty."
CWCS asked these white middle class families to describe their "dream school," then magically put forth proposals which conveniently matched these parents' fantasies – project-based learning, differentiated instruction, and service learning. What's heartbreaking for those of us who have kids in our neighborhood schools is that we recognize that nearly everything these parents were sold is already available in our schools. No charter school can really be more progressive than a public school in this climate.  And no public school can be as progressive as it wants to be.
It's ironic that CWCS was introduced to District 14 families through Eric Grannis' Tapestry Project whose sole aim is to bring charter schools into North Brooklyn. Grannis is married to Eva Moskowitz, the CEO of the Success Academy charter chain.  Grannis and Moskowitz care so deeply about the kids in our district that they want to make sure that every race and socio-economic category has their own school. Middle class parents in Williamsburg and Greenpoint have absolutely no intention of sending their kids to the new Success Academy, but CWCS might sound interesting. 
CWCS is for white people.  This is implied in their proposal which includes a graphic showing that the neighborhood is 55% white, though the schools are only 8% white, and then adds: "We hope to offer families a public school option in CSD 14 that more closely mirrors their neighborhood composition." (Section 1(b)1))

The 55% white demographic statistic does not reveal that many of the white people in Williamsburg are Hassidic families who refuse to enroll their children in public schools (with the exception of special education programs) and "hipsters," many of whom don't have children at all. The data also doesn't capture that there are whole swaths of Williamsburg, Bed Stuy, and Bushwick that suffer from profound socio-economic and racial isolation.
In the gentrified areas of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, our schools match the diversity of the areas where they are housed, notably in the lower grades, as more and more middle class families are sending their children to our local schools.  Here's a snapshot of our neighborhood schools, which compares the public schools in the gentrified areas with our four unzoned charter schools:
RACIAL DIVERSITY STATISTICS
% Hispanics
% African American
% White
% Asian
PS84
78%
9%
10%
3%
PS110
37%
8%
52% *
3%
PS132
51%
12%
32%
4%
PS31
49%
4%
37% *
9%
PS34
21%
3%
72% *
4%
Ethical Community Charter
41%
51%
5%
1%
Achievement First Charter
41%
58%
0%
1%
Brooklyn Charter
3%
97%
0%
0%
Beginning with Children Charter
60%
36%
2%
0%
Success Academy Charter- Bed Stuy 1
No info
No info
No info
No info

* Includes large population of Polish speakers
The diversity in our public schools housed in the gentrified areas of District 14 sets into relief the egregious segregation in the schools that fall outside of the our gentrified areas; many schools in these other neighborhoods have no white children at all.
To redress segregation in our racially and socio-economically isolated areas, District 14 was awarded nine federal magnet grants.  Eight of these are elementary school magnets. The UCLA Civil Rights Project reports (see hereand here)  explain how magnet schools are a sustainable and equitable model for increasing diversity in public schools, in contrast to charter schools that generate further segregation.  
We can't capitulate to the fears of new parents have about urban public schools by offering them "white flight" solutions. We need to build up the well-deserved trust that parents can have in our public schools and turn them all into PS84's and PS31's. We know that integrating schools in areas that suffer from housing segregation is a complicated and difficult endeavor, but there are best practices that we can learn from, including magnet programs, and it is our moral obligation as a community to support them.  Not just because it's a promise that the NYC DOE made to the federal government to integrate these schools, but because we know the benefits of schools that are diverse, in which our children can learn how to learn and work together. 
If SUNY accepts these two proposals for CWCS, this will trigger a new form of state-sponsored "white fight" from perfectly good community schools into charter schools, setting our district back decades, and ensuring that our racially and socio-economically isolated schools remain segregated. Please support our community public schools and say NO to segregation.
And write a letter to SUNY at charters@suny.edu ; cc:  jason.sarsfield@suny.eduken.o'brien@suny.edutrustees@suny.edu; bcc: williamsburggreenpointschools@gmail.com  Deadline is May 21.  
Thanks!  -- Brooke Parker WAGPOPS!
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