Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My Public Statement Before the New York City Council Education Committee

By Julius Tajiddin

Re: Charter Schools in Our Public School Buildings

(The following testimony took place in the main chambers of City Hall on March 2, 2010 before New York City Council's Committee on Education.)

Good Evening Council Members:

My name is Julius Tajiddin and I sit on the School Leadership Team of my daughter's school located in Harlem and I have been very much in the forefront of the charter school going into [our] public school buildings issue. I would like to briefly address this issue.

It is very simple. A state agency, I.e., the Department of Education, cannot advocate for charter schools and desire to put them in public school buildings with other public schools, yet allow them to function with unequal opportunity or unequally. One example of what I am talking about is: A charter school’s policy may be that no middle/high school class size will have more than 15 students per classroom in an average sized public school classroom space where basic classroom instruction is given. A public school using the same size class/space ratio with the same type of instruction is often times considered underutilized under the DOE’s current policy.

If the state agency is involved in this [type of] process, under this example, such an act or policy would be repugnant to the Constitution. It would also violate our city’s Human Rights law.

This is happening with the city’s public school property. However, we have current state law that is controlling enough to keep the DOE in check from doing this.

The New York Charter School Act (Article 56), § 2853. 1. (b-1) ( c ) - states that “A charter school shall be deemed an independent and autonomous public school, except as otherwise provided in this article. The charter entity and the board of regents shall be deemed to be the public agents authorized to supervise and oversee the charter school.”

The word deemed in law means to treat as if. In other words a charter school is considered to be like a public school with a certain independence and autonomy. But there are exceptions.

At subsection 3. Facilities. (a) it reads - “A charter school may be located in part of an existing public school building, in space provided on a private work site, in a public building or in any other suitable location. Provided, however, before a charter school may be located in part of an existing public school building, the charter entity shall provide notice to the parents or guardians of the students then enrolled in the existing school building and shall hold a public hearing for purposes of discussing the location of the charter school. A charter school may own, lease or rent its space. For purposes of local zoning, land use regulation and building code compliance, a charter school shall be deemed a nonpublic school.”

In other words when it comes to putting a charter school in a public school building the charter school is not considered a public school and such a situation should be treated according to local land use regulations and other local law.

In conclusion, the city council must enforce its authority and put the charter school public school issue when it comes to land use under its jurisdiction.

Thank you,

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