Charter-school supporters rally across the Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Currents | 10/09/2013 | 0 comments

 From NY1 and Brooklyn Currents

Parents, students and administrators supporting charter schools marched over the Brooklyn Bridge Tuesday morning, Oct. 8 to protest proposals from Democratic  mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio that they said would threaten the survival of the publicly funded, privately run schools.

De Blasio said that if he's the next mayor, he would require some of the charters to pay rent, and would place a  moratorium on charters locating in the same buildings as standard public schools.

Organizers said about  17,000 charter-school supporters walked over the bridge Tuesday morning.

"We need new schools," said one young student at the protest.

"Parents have to make that choice," said another.

The first marchers began crossing before 9 a.m. More than three hours later, they were still coming.  They were greeted by a small counter-protest.

"Parents who feel like they've benefited from Mayor Bloomberg's policies would like to see them continued," said Sharhonda Bossier of Families for Excellent Schools.

"The next mayor has a choice," said one parent at the march.

De Blasio has said  he'd start requiring charter schools to pay rent if administrators want to use space in public school buildings; charter supporters say this could put some of the charters out of business. 

The United Federation of Teachers, the public-school teachers' union, is vehemently against charters, which for the most part employ non-union teachers.

"We deserve the right for free space in a public school building," said a parent at the march.

Asked about it after the march, de Blasio said, "I won't favor charters the way the Bloomberg administration did, and I think that's fair," he said.

In the past decade, the number of charter schools in the city has jumped from 17 to 183.

Republican nominee Joseph Lhota -- who trails de Blasio in current polling -- has said he would double the number of charters. His wife and daughter participated in Tuesday's march, and he met up with them and charter-school supporters by City Hall.

"Many of them have come up to me and said, 'I'm a Democrat, but I'm voting for you because of my position on charter schools,'" Lhota said.

About 70 schools participated in the event, canceling class for what many considered a political march. Charter administrators defended the action, called it a civics lesson and saying that  the schools' very existence could be in the balance.

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