Turf Wars and Growing Pains: How New York Education Law Can Ease the Co-Location Battle

By Zdanys, Joanna | Fordham Urban Law Journal, May 2013 | Go to article overview

Turf Wars and Growing Pains: How New York Education Law Can Ease the Co-Location Battle


Zdanys, Joanna, Fordham Urban Law Journal


Introduction   I. New York City's Charter School Boom      A. Race to the Top and the Obama Administration's         Support for Charter School Growth      B. Charter School Legislation and Race to the Top in         New York State      C. Allocating Space to Charter Schools in New York:         How it Works  II. The Challenges of Charter School Co-Location      A. Allocating Space Fairly in Schools      B. Broader Systemic Concerns      C. Recent Disputes over Co-Location         1. P.S. 9 and Brooklyn East Collegiate Charter            School         2. Success Charter Network and the Brandeis            Educational Complex         3. Additional Litigation         4. Looking Ahead: Mayoral Candidates' Stances on            Charter School Co-Location III. Analysis and Strategies for Easing the Co-Location Battle      A. Refine Criteria for Site Selection      B. More Accurate Footprint Data      C. Increased Community Input      D. Stronger Provisions for Cooperation Between Schools Conclusion 

INTRODUCTION

On a Wednesday night in the middle of January, a crowd gathers inside Brooklyn Technical High School in New York City. (1) Some hold signs, and others blow whistles. (2) A few words escalate into a shouting match. (3) Journalists snap photographs and capture sound bytes. (4) The crowd has gathered in protest because the Panel for Education Policy (PEP) is about to hold a meeting, during which it will vote on the possible co-location of a charter school with a public school. (5) "Co-location" is the practice of housing two or more schools in the same public school building. (6) As charter schools multiply in number throughout New York City, scenes similar to this one have become increasingly familiar to teachers, administrators, parents, charter school supporters, advocates of traditional public schools, and students of all ages. (7)

The storm over school co-location is a byproduct of the charter school movement, which has garnered both strong support and fierce opposition. Charter schools are publicly funded, tuition-free schools that are exempt from some of the rules and regulations that govern traditional public schools. (8) Private individuals, nonprofit organizations, and for-profit companies can create charter schools, (9) and in some instances, a traditional public school can be converted to a charter school. (10) Supporters laud charter schools for offering parents the option of choosing a public school other than their children's assigned district schools, (11) for providing high-quality education to children in traditionally underserved communities, (12) and for allowing educators to experiment with new approaches to curriculum. (13) Others argue that charter schools can "generate competitive effects that drive up the quality of both charter and traditional public schools." (14) The results of a 2013 Stanford CREDO study found that students in New York City charter schools on average learned significantly more in reading and mathematics than their counterparts in traditional public schools. (15) Opponents to charter schools, however, paint a much different picture. They argue that charter schools siphon off resources from traditional public schools (16) and do not necessarily produce better outcomes for students across the board. (17)

Charter schools have risen in prominence in New York City in recent years. There are currently 159 charter schools operating in the five boroughs. (18) Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a vocal supporter of the charter school movement and has promoted the growth of charter schools and the policy of co-locating charters with public schools. (19) As of 2010, 102 charter schools shared space with other schools in public school buildings. (20) Co-location is not a new or novel practice in New York City, nor is it confined to charter schools; the majority of the city's public schools inhabit the same building as another public school. (21) Co-located schools often share resources, such as cafeterias, gymnasiums, auditoriums, and schoolyards. …

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