Harlem’s Melissa Mark-Viverito Flip Flop?

January 6, 2014

DREAM CHARTERMelissa Mark-Viverito was for charter schools in her East Harlem district — until she hungered to become the next City Council speaker, critics charge.

Viverito last week signed on to a lawsuit to block dozens of charter schools from sharing building space with traditional public schools — including Dream Charter School on her own turf.

The move baffled charter-school proponents.

“Thousands of children from Viverito’s district are thriving in public charter schools, but their futures are threatened by this lawsuit,” said Josefina Calcano, a parent at Success Academy Harlem 4 charter school and a resident in Viverito’s district.

“The councilwoman has stood up for charter schools in the past, so I want to know what made her change her mind. She’s clearly putting politics before our community’s kids.”

Last year, Mark-Viverito joined Yankee first baseman Mark Teixeira at the groundbreaking for the Dream Charter/East Harlem Center for Living and Learning.

She even boasted of helping secure funding for the 11-story facility on 104th Street, between Second and Third avenues, on Housing Authority land within the Washington Houses complex. Viverito steered more than $500,000 in capital funds to Dream Charter operator Harlem RBI, budget records show.

“Thanks to additional Participatory Budgeting funding, Harlem RBI’s K-8 Dream Charter School will have a permanent home in this new development — and a 54,000-square-foot home to boot,” the councilwoman said.

But until the new facility’s scheduled opening in the fall of 2014, Dream Charter needs space to educate its students. The city Department of Education, under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, approved a plan to temporarily allow Dream Charter to co-locate its kindergartners and first-graders in PS 50 at 433 E. 100th St.

It’s second- through sixth-graders share a building with PS 38 at 232 E. 103rd St.

Mark-Viverito is a plaintiff in the suit seeking to nullify 42 co-locations, including the Dream Charter-PS 50 sharing proposal.

Powerful critics of charter-school expansion through space-sharing include Mayor de Blasio, the teachers union and NYC Communities for Change, formerly ACORN. That group is also a plaintiff in the suit.

In general, students are faring well at charter schools in Mark-Viverito’s East Harlem district.

Success Academy Harlem 3 is outpacing gifted and talented programs in the area — 82 percent of its students passed the state math exam earlier this year.

The New York Center for Autism Charter School, also in her district, scored a 9 out of 10 in school satisfaction surveys.

Mark-Viverito insisted she’s still a supporter of the charter.

“Melissa has supported the Dream Charter school and the Harlem RBI organization because they offer educational and extracurricular opportunities for the youth of East Harlem and El Barrio that are currently lacking, and this does not change her support,” said her spokesman, Eric Koch (source).

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