BY JORDAN GIBBONS
Parent volunteers from StudentsFirstNY organized outside of the High School For Law Enforcement and Public Safety in South Jamaica Tuesday to call on the State Legislature to increase the cap on charter schools.
Parents and students filled the sidewalk Guy R. Brewer Boulevard with chants and signs calling for more options for education in the Jamaica area.
“What do we want? Quality schools,” the parents chanted. “When do we want them? Now.”
Queens has the second lowest number of charter schools of the five boroughs, with only Staten Island having fewer. There are only 14 in Queens out of 210 citywide that are open or are scheduled to open. Brooklyn has the most with 87.
Nina Doster, a community organizer for StudentsFirstNY, said that Albany needs to make more options available to underserved neighborhoods in Queens.
“The public school system is failing far too many children here in Queens,” Doster said. “Parents in the Borough need to have more choices for where to send their children to school.”
Crystal Lee-McJunkin, whose child attends a public middle school in Jamaica, said that charters should be available to serve the needs of children who need it most.
“Our community depends on public schools to open the doors of opportunity for our children, but when our only option is to send our kids to the nearest failing school, those doors are slammed shut,” she said.
Parent and community activist Gary Frazier said that Queens desperately needs quality schools to send its children.
“Many of us who live in underserved communities throughout the Borough are already at a disadvantage and we need options like quality charter schools to reduce the obstacles already standing in the way of our kids,” Frazier said.
Queens also has the worst ratio of students to charter schools, with 21,703 students per charter school.
Au Hogan, a parent and grandfather of several public school students said that Queens public schools are coming up short when it comes to offering a quality education.
“At the end of the day, this is about fairness and equity in education. Parents who lives in Queens deserve to have as many choices as parents in other boroughs,” Hogan said. “Education is like a germ, it spreads. You either have it or you don’t. Unfortunately, our community doesn’t have it.”
While the charter cap is far from being reached, with more than 200 spots still available. Statewide, StudentsFirstNY wants the cap to be raised first, but also wants to let charter school owners and operators know that there is a need in Queens.
“The people in the community just want to have options. We’re asking for the cap to be raised and then once that cap is raised that charters seriously consider setting up shop in Queens,” Michael Nitzky, a spokesman for StudentsFirstNY, said. “People who run the charter schools need to recognize that Queens is ripe for opportunity.”
Reach Reporter Jordan Gibbons at (718)357-7400, Ext. 123, email@example.com or @jgibbons2.