The turnout for Wednesday’s “Stand for School Equality” rally was impressive — more than 15,000 students, parents and teachers gathered in Cadman Plaza and marched over the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall, calling for measures to address the inequality in NYC’s public school system.
Ostensibly a fight against unequal schools, the purpose of Wednesday’s rally would more accurately be described as promoting charter schools.
New York City is home to the largest school district in the country; more than 1.1 million students attend public education institutions throughout the five boroughs, according to the Department of Education. But the city’s schools are also some of the nation’s most divided along race and class lines.
A 2014 study conducted by UCLA researchers reported that only 20 percent of NYC’s school zones were considered diverse, an extremely low percentage for such a diverse metropolitan area.
Families For Excellent Schools, the charter school umbrella organization that drove Wednesday’s rally, released their own report in August finding a divided school system that tracks affluent white students to the top 141 schools and poorer minority students to 850 underperforming schools, where 70 percent of attendees fail to meet academic standards.
Only one in five Black or Hispanic students in the city can read or write at grade level, according to the white paper, and more than 200,000 Black and Hispanic students did not meet academic standards on this year’s state exams.
“I have two boys in charter school and wanted to support the cause,” rally attendee Denise Sargeant told Brownstoner on the Brooklyn Bridge. “[I] wanted to promote good education, good schools and teachers, more training for teachers, and parent involvement.”
In a press conference held on the steps of City Hall on Wednesday, protestors asked Mayor Bill de Blasio to end education inequality and take immediate steps to provide families of color with good schools. The most frequent solution put forward to address the problem? Supporting charter schools.
“We are talking about thousands of parents, thousands of children, who just want a better future. Who just want opportunity to simply be possible,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. in a noticeably pro-charter-school speech in front of City Hall.
— Brooklyn Daily Eagle (@BklynEagle) October 7, 2015
— Families4ExcSchools (@Fam4ExcSchools) October 7, 2015
[Photo: Barbara Eldredge]
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