Multiple lawsuits aimed at shutting co-located charter schools, one from the U.F.T. President Michael Mulgrew last July and the other from Public Advocate Letitia James and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in December, were filed to repeal nearly 30 charter schools approved under the Bloomberg administration.
Camara joined dozens of families along with community leaders to fight for support in the poorer neighborhoods of New York City and to assure families that these schools would stay open.
“Right now we have a very troubling situation,” Camara said. “On one hand, many schools that had agreements in place for co-location, those agreements are now null and void, and on the other hand, capital money that was used to reduce the number of co-locations that were necessary, has been taken away.”
This push is just one of many that come in light of an announcement from the newly appointed schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, regarding an initiative to redirect $210 million from charter schools towards the universal prekindergarten initiative.
“We’re saying to please keep those agreements in place,” Camara said. “Allow that money - that in the past that was used from capital funds for schools operating independently and not co-locating - allow that money to be used as it has been in the past.”
Camara said he would be interested in looking for funds to help charter schools become independent if the city can no longer afford to support co-locations.
“Unfortunately we’ve created a negative climate for charter schools, and that should not be the case,” he said. “They have become a significant contribution to making sure the students who are not getting excellent education get that.”
Joe Herrera, a single parent with a student at Coney Island Preparatory Public Charter School, said he is worried the recent lawsuits would leave his child without a school.
“I, like many other parents of my community and across the city, have struggled to find the best educational option for our children,” Herrera said. “I have seen my son grow from two years below reading level with a learning disability to a young man who has obtained a mastery level in reading and continuously exceeds expectations in his classes.”
Herrera and several other parents stood with Camara at the rally.
“Please do not evict our children,” he said. “One rollback is one rollback too many.”
Assemblyman Robert Rodriquez has already come out in support of Camara’s call for unity in the State Assembly’s approval to secure charter school funding.
"These neighborhood schools are the lifeblood of our communities,” Rodriguez said. “Children who have never had a place to go now are getting a great education. We cannot afford to put their futures in jeopardy."
While there is some support, there are still those who say co-located charter schools have a negative impact on the public schooling system.
Assemblyman Joseph Lentol said while he does support independently operated charter schools, he says those co-located in successful public schools are hurting the community.
“There are charter schools that are a reality in parts of my Assembly District. They are open and operating and I have worked with them,” Lentol said. “However, I continue to work against the co-location of charter schools in areas where the public schools are performing well, like in my area of Greenpoint and Williamsburg.”
Lentol, like many against the co-location of charter schools, worries that the practice could take away students from the public school system and displace the surrounding community.
“I have some of the best public elementary schools in the city and I have great junior high schools and some that are really turning around,” he said. “They should not be undermined in any way."