Thousands of charter school teachers gathered Wednesday afternoon to rally in support of their schools and put pressure on elected officials. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
A DJ flown in from LA to spin. Artisanal donuts from Brooklyn hotspot Dough. Goodie bags stuffed with free selfie sticks. Photo booths and ready-made Instagram backdrops.
No, it's not an uptown Sweet Sixteen. It's the latest in a string of no-expense-spared rallies staged by the pro-charter school group Families for Excellent Schools.
This time, a few thousand teachers were brought in to Foley Square to rally for their charter schools. There are 205 charters in the city, all publicly funded but privately run and politically controversial.
"We have rallies just to bring attention to the state of inequality with our schools in New York," said Danixa Carr, an organizer with Families for Excellent Schools. "Unfortunately, there is a tale of two school systems. One system where kids are set up for the path of success, and another where kids are set up on the path to failure."
Families for Excellent Schools has co-opted Mayor Bill de Blasio's Tale of Two Citites campaign rhetoric about inequality, using it to push back against his lack of enthusiam for charter schools. In the past two years, the well-funded organization has held six big rallies, trying to put de Blasio on the defensive, including one two weeks ago with as many as 15,000 students and parents.
It's not just rallies. The group has spent millions on television advertisements, including two new ads released this week.
Since Families for Excellent Schools was founded four years ago, it has refused to name its funders or disclose its spending on events like Wednesday's rally, but the limited information publically available shows some of the funding comes from Wall Street and hedge fund executives. In the last year, Families for Excellent Schools has spent at least as much, if not more, on lobbying than its foe, the teachers' union.