back and forth

Cuomo lends support to solving charter school space issue with legislation

Families for Excellent Schools is running this full-page ad in the New York Times to support charter schools.
Families for Excellent Schools is running this full-page ad in the New York Times to support charter schools.

Two days after promising to “save charter schools” at a rally in Albany, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said today that he is considering a legislative solution for New York City’s charter school space issues.

For years, New York City has let many charter schools share space without paying rent in public school buildings under a policy known as co-location. New Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged during his campaign to rein in co-location, and last week he announced that of the dozens of plans approved under the Bloomberg administration, he would stop nine from moving forward, including three involving charter schools.

Co-location is a “technical issue” with several possible solutions, Cuomo said during an appearance on the Capitol Pressroom radio show today. He emphasized the role of charter schools as engines of educational innovation and said he was already speaking with lawmakers about how to ensure that the schools can operate without being crippled by rent costs.

“The question becomes, what should the criteria for co-location be? And If you’re against co-location, then what’s the alternative for a charter school?” Cuomo asked. “Because charter schools don’t get reimbursed for rent or capital money. So that’s a question that has to be answered and it has to be answered legislatively.”

Whether Cuomo will have sufficient support from legislators to change the state’s charter schools law is unclear. Several leading legislators, including the two heads of the Senate, appeared with him at the charter school rally.

But Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, whose support is crucial to pushing bills through the Assembly, said on Wednesday that he did not think targeting charter school space issues was a top priority.

“When you want to talk about school construction, there are children who are sitting in trailers for years because we don’t have the physical facilities to put them into buildings,” Silver said. “We should talk about those children first.”

Cuomo’s comments came as a full-page ad appeared in the New York Times to call attention to the co-location issue. The ad, placed by Families for Excellent Schools, the charter advocacy group that organized Tuesday’s rally, features every student at Harlem Central Middle School, which de Blasio said last week could not expand as planned in public space.

The 194 students at Harlem Central are the only ones negatively affected by de Blasio’s charter schools policies so far. The other two charter school co-locations that de Blasio canceled were for Success Academy schools that have not yet admitted any students.

Meanwhile, de Blasio made his own radio appearance, on Hot 97, to defend his approach to charter schools. “Of course we’re going to work with the charter schools, and there’s a lot of very good charter schools, but we’re going to treat them … the same way we treat traditional public schools,” he said, echoing comments he made on the campaign trail and more recently. “We’re not going to favor them the way the Bloomberg administration did.”

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.