By JULIA JOHN-SCHEDER
Charter school leaders and parents on Tuesday forecast “big trouble” ahead as a record number of students were applying for seats in a system that has not enough places.
“The supply doesn’t meet the demand,” said James Merriman, CEO of the New York City Charter School Center as activists and parents gathered on the steps of City Hall.
The city’s charter schools received a record number of 69,000 applications for the 18,600 seats, an average of four applicants competing for each seat in the 183 schools. according to the Center.
Placards held by the parents and school leaders illustrated the high number of students on wait lists. Those 50,400 could fill the Great Lawn in Central park, pack the Yankee Stadium as well as fill 202 M train subway cars.
Calling on the new mayor to improve the education system, Merriman said, “If the four years end and the mayor isn’t able to create more high quality seats and lots of them and the parents’ ability to choose is actually met by getting a seat in the school they choose then that mayor will be judged harshly by whether he or she helped or impeded the ability of parents to find a school that works for their child.”
Most the the demand was in minority neighborhoods such as the South Bronx and Central Brooklyn.
One of the schools that appears to be high in demand is the Bronx Charter School for Better Learning which got 1,500 applications for 50 open seats. Principal Shubert Jacobs said that in the school’s ten-year existence demand for one of the 386 seats has always been high and that charter school graduates did well in their later education.
At a recent mayoral candidate forum on education, air jordan 5 sponsored by the United Federation of Teachers, some candidates spoke out against charter schools. Democratic candidate John C. Liu criticized the policy of sometimes locating charter schools too close to public schools as sending a message of “second class citizens.”
The Democratic front-runner, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said, “I don’t want to eliminate charters as an option but it is not the answer.”
A representative of the United Federation of Teachers could not be reached for comment.
Most charter schools work on a first-come first-serve basis. However, if more students apply to seats than are available, a lottery is held. One of the parents present at the press conference, Leroy Davis, said he was happy when he won a raffle seat for Bronx Better Learning for his older son who is 11.His younger son, 9, attends the school thanks to the rule that once a sibling is accepted to the school parents need not go through the application gamble again.
Davis added that he was pleased with the attention teachers give their students. “They know everyone by name and the teachers talk to the parents,” Davis said.
Another parent of a Bronx Better Learning student, Charmaine Danville said she was lucky to be in third place when she applied for her 9-year-old child.
Latoya Beazer whose child attends the same school applied to several charter schools and said she was very happy to get accepted at Bronx Better Learning.