A large number of charter school students were absent from class Wednesday to rally in support of charter school expansion here in the city. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
A sea of little advocates in oversized red shirts rallied in Brooklyn, crossed the Brooklyn Bridge and rallied again at City Hall.
"We're here because Mayor de Blasio wants to shut down our schools," said one young participant.
Not exactly. De Blasio has no power to close most charters. Nor has he said he would. But he has not been a fan of the taxpayer-funded but privately run schools. So for the fifth time in two years, the charter movement rallied students and parents to pressure him, this time demanding he shut failing public schools so charters can open in their place.
"I am here today to talk about the two unequal school systems in New York City: one school system that works, and another that doesn't, that fails our kids," said one speaker at the rally.
"A lot of kids are failing, and we want to open more schools so that kids have opportunities like us and get to go to a great school," said one young participant.
Most participants at the rallies have ties to Success Academy charter schools, run by a longtime de Blasio political rival, Eva Moskowitz. All 34 Success Academies closed Wednesday morning so its 11,000 students and their parents could protest.
Organizers have suggested that de Blasio's policies are condemning black and Hispanic children to second-class schools.
De Blasio defended his policies.
"Our vision for the New York City public schools is that every school is going to be brought up to the point of excellence," de Blasio said in an interview with 1010 WINS Radio. "We are putting an unprecedented level of resources in."
The event was orchestrated by the charter advocacy group Families for Excellent Schools. Organizers would not say how much it cost or whether performers, including Jennifer Hudson, were paid.
Some elected officials have questioned whether charters should cancel class for a political rally. The City Council education committee even held a hearing into the issue last year.
The charters claim the rallies can serve as learning experiences for the kids who participate.