Citizens Charter Looks East

Los Angeles-based CItizens of the World charter network has applied to open a school in fast-gentrifying Williamsburg (Brooklyn), and the local NPR affiliate reports that its possible  arrival is creating both hope and concern.  While socioeconomically diverse and progressive charter schools like Citizens are somewhat familiar in Los Angeles, they remain new and unfamiliar on the East Coast, where most charters are demographically homogeneous and more structured in their educational approach.

  • Williamsburg Greenpoint

    There’s a lot of information people need in order to adequately understand WHY the opposition to “Citizens of the World Charter Schools” is so widespread and includes every elected official and body in Williamsburg.

    “Citizens of the World” is not a “no excuses” charter school, but they are NOT more progressive than any of our neighborhood public schools. In fact, “Citizens” is decidedly LESS progressive than our neighborhood schools, with LESS arts and service learning planned, LESS opportunities for family engagement and LESS relationships to our local neighborhoods and community based organizations.

    “Citizens of the World” imposed themselves on our district, capitalizing on a mayor who is pushing privatization on the entire city and erasing any democratic input into decision making. Their approval (hotly contested as the two charter authorizing bodies are being sued by hundreds of parents BECAUSE they approved “Citizens of the World”) The methods that “Citizens” used to seek approval were suspect, racist, and anti-democratic. They held meetings exclusively at luxury condos-claiming they represented low-income housing, used a real estate lawyer to gain petition signatures at real estate closings, and avoided engaging with ANY local community groups or electeds because they knew it would cause them friction. Even with all of their secrecy and subterfuge, their support is minimal in our neighborhood, hardly matching the overwhelming opposition.

    There are REAL reasons beyond the ire their tactics inspired to loathe their presence in our district. Our district has several unique features, not the least of which are a number of EXCELLENT (“A” rated) elementary schools – all of which are far from at capacity. The space in our schools (gentrification has induced a population decline in school age children) is attracting charter schools to use the free space in our school buildings. Our public schools in the gentrified areas (where “Citizens” intends to be housed) are ALREADY diverse. Creating an additional elementary school, when all of our schools are under-enrolled, is HORRIBLE city planning. Not only will it syphon resources away from our great schools, but it will increase segregation as “Citizens of the World” has marketed exclusively to white affluent parents. Since the horrible press they received, they’ve tried to remedy this by launching their misinformation campaign in our low-income neighborhood day cares, but the message they sent was clear. They want a school that is majority white, affluent students. Diversity for them clearly has a tipping point.

    Anyone that wants more information about the myriad reasons parents and community members are opposed to “Citizens of the World” are welcome to:
    – An article on “Citizens of the World”
    – Our 45 page letter outlining how “Citizens of the World Charter School” will undermine our community. Note: at first they tried to open TWO schools in our district because they were so out of touch with our enrollment numbers.