Councilman Lew Fidler is bristling at Brooklyn Dreams Charter School’s push into our ‘hood. Though he’s against charter schools in general, he’s particularly angered about the latest attempts to infiltrate our own District 22.

“We don’t want it, we don’t need it, and our schools down here don’t merit it,” he told Sheepshead Bites over the phone.

And like many in the community, Fidler fears an attempted invasion of public educational facilities by Brooklyn Dreams – a la Hebrew Language Academy/Marine Park J.H.S – despite promises from officials to find their own space.

“The problem with that is that’s what we heard from HLA when they were in the charter process,” he said. He also shook a finger at the decision to schedule summer hearings, when many parents are away on vacation, and the school’s attempts to move into other districts in search of the path of least resistance. “Somehow they don’t imagine that the opposition to a charter school would be just as consistent here?”

As a member of the education committee and chair of the youth services committee in the City Council, Fidler has had behind-the-scenes access to the citywide charter schools debate. What he has seen has made him a decided – and influential – opponent to charter schools.

“I think that the charter system creates a two-tier system of public schools,” he said. “They ought to pay more time and energy in public schools that need to be improved rather than creating a second tier of schools, and the argument that charters perform better than public is based on misleading and distorted facts.”

Charter schools are often hailed by proponents as a better alternative to public schools, and they use performance statistics as their main argument. But Fidler says the argument for better performance is based on faulty premises.

Because of the charter application process and the structure of the schools, he says, the schools inherently have smaller class sizes and high parental involvement (since schools must be sought out and applied to). Statistically, he adds, charters take fewer ESL and special education students, which obviously provide a greater educational challenge.

“It’s comparing apples to bananas,” he said. “If you factor out those four things, charter schools are not better than public schools.” Public schools stand to benefit more if the money is kept in the system and more attention is spent on reducing class size and increasing parental involvement.

Fidler will be at the Brooklyn Dreams Charter School hearing at Shell Bank J.H.S. on July 16th. Be sure to stop by and voice your opinion.

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