There were certainly some unique circumstances:
- The ability to pull out a thousand people.
- The politicians jumping on board, including Anthony Weiner and Bill Thompson.
- The community is mostly white (and Irish Catholic.)
It is rare that charter schools are inserted into schools in white communities. Many speakers pointed to the fact that the charter school law calls for them to be placed in areas where there are "failing" schools and that in that context the Hebrew Language Academy charter school makes no sense. I mean, don't expect HLA to go to Bed-Stuy, despite the fact that there are thousands of parents who want their kids to learn Hebrew.
But you know something, if they did place it there people would line up for the two teachers in the room, the low class sizes and the other goodies. But we know that will never happen because the true purpose of HLA was to serve the Russian Jewish population in southern Brooklyn and the so-called diversity their speakers bragged about was not in evidence other than some token speakers and they have been unwilling to provide exact figures.
Now, I don't agree with the argument that charters should go into only certain areas of the city. I and another GEM speaker were the only ones who opposed the concept of charters as undermining the public schools and challenged Steinhardt's daughter Sara Berman and her supporters to fight for low class sizes and two teachers in a room for every child in the city.
Where was the UFT?
One thing was very clear in the IS 278 situation: The UFT played no role. How could they oppose the placing of a charter in a middle school when they did exactly that at George Gershwin MS in East NY - IS 166 - (my Alma Mata)? And they also have one in an elementary school. Ed Notes and ICE have opposed the UFT charter schools.
Commenters touched on issues race and power.
The scary part of this is that it may be a victory for IS 278 but its going to be a defeat for some other school when they try to dump this charter elsewhere. I hope the people in the long neglected poorer part of Distict 22 are watching out for their schools because I wonder if those same politicians will defend them the same way they defended IS 278.
The politics of this is very uncomfortable. Although this is a great victory for IS 278. Why haven't other schools been able to win this kind of battle? Why all know the answer to this question & it is very disturbing.
First off, HLA will now be leasing their space, most likely from the Diocese of Brooklyn, so no other public school will have to fight. This is what they should have been doing from the beginning but they no doubt preferred the free ride they were getting from the DOE.
Secondly, I don't know what anonymous was implying about why this campaign was so successful. I tend to think it was the outpouring of the community: Nearly 1000 people attended the hearing, thousands of calls were received by 311 and over 6000 signatures were collected on petitions from the community. Show me another school that put forth that kind of effort and maybe then you can compare the outcome. I think we succeeded because it was a well thought out, well-executed plan and believe me when I tell you, more was planned for the future. Don't turn it into something it's not.
There's a load of implications in this interchange. Do politicians favor white communities or do they respond to the numbers? LQuinlan points to a remarkable organizing effort. I was told 200 press releases were sent out. Only Ed Notes and Channel 5 responded and you saw almost no press coverage of the event. And there still seems to be news blackout of what I think was one of the most remarkable outpourings of opposition to the arrogance and power of BloomKlein.
HLA may have been the trigger - there are some whispers that if it was not a Hebrew charter the opposition would not have been as great - but I do not get the impression that anti-semitism was at play and there would have been vigorous opposition to any charter.
Calls of "This is America"
There were other issues. When a translator got up to announce in Spanish that translation was available, there were shouts of "Speak English" and "This is America." You could just imagine what was going through the minds of the HLA supporters and the DOE officials. And the progressive ed reformers who came out in support. This certainly didn't come from a majority of people, but that was not a pretty sight. Someone with guts (not me) should have asked for a Hebrew translation.
Certainly this was a volatile crowd and when the HLA people got up to speak it was raucous at times. The DOE people got a taste of what teachers face running an auditorium program. It was the organizers who kept the crowd under control. They not only knew what they were doing in organizing this event but their political instincts are right on.
Would they support other schools in other neighborhoods or even schools in Marine Park that are forced to take a charter? GEM tried to make the connection when we spoke. When people came over to thank us for speaking, we did raise the issue that people in Harlem are in the same position and we hoped they would be there for them.
I do think some of the organizers are part of the bigger battles on mayoral control now that they have seen the power exercised and fought off "successfully."
Did the DOE lose?
I put "successfully" in quotes for a reason. When people asked at the meeting if it was a done deal, the response was that Klein would hear what people said and make a decision. Sure. I told the DOE guy I would bet him it was a done deal and no matter what happened that night, BloomKlein wouldn't back down.
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