The 30 Schools in 30 Days project will highlight a different New York State charter school each day, featuring each school's successes, and the challenges that come from being denied access to state facilities funding. Perhaps most important, each school leader has a message for state lawmakers in Albany: please find a solution to the facilities funding problem and allow ALL of the state's charter schools access to building aid this year.
Brooklyn Prospect Charter School exists today because two Brooklyn dads, Daniel Rubenstein and Luyen Chou, were looking for good middle school options for their children and realized the difficulty of this goal.
The two decided to do something about it and through lots of hard work, opened Brooklyn Prospect in 2009 with 100 sixth grade students. The school is now a kindergarten through 12th grade program, replicating existing grades, and looking forward to graduating its first class in 2016.
Rubenstein said the school is based on three ideas:
* Great teachers make a great school.
* School should be about the next 20 years, not regurgitating the last 20 years.
* Students with radically different backgrounds should sit by side and learn and achieve with each other.
The student population at Brooklyn Prospect is very diverse. Approximately one third of its newest 6th grade is white, one-third is Hispanic and one-third is a mix of Asian, black and mixed race students. The school serves a high poverty population, with approximately 40% percent of students receiving free and reduced lunch.
Despite their backgrounds and circumstances, the children are succeeding. “The results speak for themselves,” said Rubenstein.
Brooklyn Prospect has out-performed both its host district and the New York state average on the ELA and math state exams for the last several years.
Brooklyn Prospect is an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School, a globally acclaimed model. Rubenstein says it is one of the best secondary school programs in the world and that their standards are “very rigorous and comprehensive.”
But like all charter schools in private space, facilities funding is the school’s biggest challenge.
“Twenty percent of our operating costs go to facilities. This burden takes money from our instructional programs. We have a wide range of needs and we would prefer to use this money on our students’ instruction,” said Rubenstein.
“We are trying to provide opportunities for students who wouldn’t otherwise have them.”
Rubenstein continued: “It’s very, very challenging to not be fairly funded. We believe that we are one of the most underfunded schools in NYC.”
“The best thing we can do for any student is put a great teacher in the front of the classroom,” said Rubenstein. “We have great people here. Our teachers come from all over the US and the globe – as far away as Hong Kong and countries in Africa.”
When asked how he would rather spend money that currently goes to his buildings, Rubenstein doesn’t hesitate: “Invest more in people – more teachers. Expand our program in new directions. Ensure that our great teachers are rewarded for being long-term, high-performing faculty members.”
His message to lawmakers: “All public school students deserve equal funding. It’s not fair to have a two-tier system between district schools and charter schools. But that’s what we have right now with charters in private space and those who are co-located. It’s absurd that some charters receive full funding and some don’t. All charter schools deserve full and equitable funding so we can continue doing the important work of educating children.”
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