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Charter schools threaten public schools, Maisel says

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Charter schools will leave District 22 public schools lifeless, according to a local elected official.

“Charter schools will suck the life out of our excellent public schools,” Assemblymember Alan Maisel said at last week’s public hearing about the possible opening of the Fusion Charter School and Una Clarke Preparatory Academy Charter School.

According to Maisel and District 22’s Community Education Council (CEC), which hosted the public hearing, charter schools often attract the top performing students from local schools. As a result, student achievement at those local schools declines, thereby giving the appearance that the public schools are less successful than charter schools, they said.

This is especially so because many charter schools do not “take their fair share of special education kids and they are not taking their fair share of English Language Learners (ELL),” who often struggle academically and have lower test scores, Maisel said.

“[Charter schools] are doing better because they’re not taking in difficult kids,” Maisel said. “They only want kids that are performing well.”

Both the Fusion and Una Clarke schools said they would reserve some seats, possibly 10 percent, for special education and ELL students.

If students leave District 22 schools for charters, funding will follow. That’s because the city Department of Education (DOE) doesn’t provide a lump sum for a school’s budget, but rather money for each student enrolled.

“If students by the hundreds walk out the door, the money follows them,” said Christopher Spinelli, president of the CEC in District 22, which includes Mill Basin, Bergen Beach, Manhattan Beach, Marine Park, Gerritsen Beach and parts of Midwood, Flatbush and Sheepshead Bay. “We’re not going to be able to maintain successful programs with empty buildings.”

George A. Fuccillo, a former public school teacher and one of the Fusion School’s founders, said charter schools don’t want to hurt existing schools.

“It’s not a threat to District 22. Any success we have is a success for District 22. We are an extension of District 22. We are not an adversary,” he said.

Both the Fusion and Una Clarke schools plan to open in private facilities, rather than share space in public school buildings.

While Fusion hopes to rent the second floor of a commercial building at Flatlands and Flatbush avenues, the Una Clarke team is searching for space in Ditmas Park or Kensington.

The Fusion school will focus on math, science and technology. The Una Clarke school will promote cultural diversity and “develop engaged citizens through civic activities.”

The DOE is currently reviewing the schools’ applications.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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