Open Letter to Mayor de Blasio Refuting DOE Claims of Inadequate Space for Co-Locations

December 12, 2016

The Hon. Bill de Blasio
Mayor, New York City
CC: Chancellor Carmen Fariña, Deputy Chancellor Elizabeth Rose

Dear Mayor de Blasio:

As our country faces numerous uncertainties and challenges, we believe our responsibility as educators is to ensure as many children as possible have access to a high quality education in their communities.

For many months, we, the members of the Coalition for Education Equality, have attempted to work in collaboration with your administration to find space for more than 50 planned public charter schools scheduled to open or expand over the next two school years. Over that period of time, we have met several times with Department of Education (DOE) officials to discuss how the City can support our efforts to serve more of New York’s highest need children.

While the conversations have been cordial and we have made some progress, the vast majority of space needs that our coalition has identified remain unresolved. In a letter sent in July, the DOE asserted that there is not enough public space in which to place new public charter schools, claiming that “the 2014-2015 Blue Book shows approximately 50,000 excess seats in buildings where schools are still phasing in during the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 school years, which will significantly reduce the amount of available space in these buildings.”

However, new data published in the 2015-2016 Blue Book — which was released by the City in October — clearly demonstrates that available space for public charter schools in public buildings has increased over the past year, not decreased. In fact, in the ten city school districts where public charter schools have requested space for new schools, there are now 93 district school buildings with enough space to site a charter school[1] — more than enough buildings to co-locate every single planned expansion of our schools over the next two years.

The DOE has stated that it truly intends to work in real partnership with us to do what is best for children — a sentiment we appreciate and reciprocate. As next school year rapidly approaches, we need to ensure these pledges become reality. Further delays have real impacts on the children and families we serve. Today, hundreds of families do not know where their children will attend school next year. These families don’t deserve to suffer through this uncertainty year after year, simply because their children attend public charter schools.

Lastly, we worry that the onerous process that is currently in place will prevent New York City from being a desirable destination for new and innovative school operators. Your policy as it currently stands will limit the number of new, high quality options offered to New York’s parents over time.

Mayor de Blasio, we ask that you move quickly to use the empty classrooms that the updated Blue Book identifies in order to provide public space for public charter school students. We are hopeful that we can move past these delays and onto finding public classroom space for our students.

Sincerely,

Brett Peiser
Chief Executive Officer
Uncommon Schools

Ian Rowe
Chief Executive Officer
Public Preparatory Network

Eva Moskowitz
Chief Executive Officer
Success Academy Charter Schools

Dacia Toll
Co-CEO and President
Achievement First

Dave Levin
Co-Founder
KIPP

Jacob Mnookin
Executive Director
Coney Island Prep Public Charter School

[1] These 93 buildings have at least 300 open seats, which is sufficient to support new or expanding public charter schools in these ten districts.