Long time Flatbush residents have seen elections come and go, while the poor condition of schools in the area remains the same. Despite the fact that neither gubernatorial candidate’s education platform fully satisfied members of this Caribbean community, voters still packed polls on Tuesday, surrendering votes to the Democratic Party with hopeless ambition.
“We don’t know what we’re voting for” says Suzette Boozer, a Flatbush resident of twenty years. “It’s the same thing year after year.”
Boozer, like many, said she votes simply to keep the Democrats in office with the hope that without party turnover the condition of schools will remain consistent, despite their destitution.
“We don’t have textbooks!” said Mr. Francisco, a 6th grade teacher at the East Flatbush Community Research School, whose name has been changed to protect his job. “I really can’t tell you how much of a disadvantage it is to these children that they don’t have textbooks to read.”
Many students in Flatbush area schools are English Language Learners with extremely low reading levels to start. Francisco said only 24 of his 93 students are at grade level in English Language Arts.
Teachers aside, parents at the polls expressed other concerns: overcrowded classrooms.
A report released by the Independent Budget Office shows that 63 percent of Brooklyn’s high schools are overcrowded. And studies have shown that overcrowding lends itself to all sorts of problems for both students and teachers.
Mr. Francisco speculates that overcrowding plays a role in the violence within his classroom. He says there are verbal arguments between students daily, and many turn physical.
“The worst instance involved a student being stabbed in the throat,” says Francisco. “Behavior problems are running rampant throughout the school.”
Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo aims to diffuse the problems in district schools by increasing the number of charter schools in the city, as well as lift the current enrollment cap, ultimately giving families in the community more schooling options.
A report released by the Charter School Office in the Department of Education informed that the main advantage of public charter schools is the ability of each one to establish a distinct curriculum.
Moreover, charter schools not performing well face the annual threat of losing their charter, said an insider working for public education reform who did not wish to be named. She continued that the academic inspections allow only the best schools to remain open; unlike district schools, which she called “drop-out factories” which are rarely closed down despite poor academic health.
But so too, charter schools cannot meet the needs of all the children in the Flatbush community.
“We currently have 2,500 students from the Flatbush region on our waiting list,” said Alision Jones, the external affairs manager at the Explore Charter School, whose totally enrollment currently stands at just 475. “The demand is much greater than what we can provide at the moment.”
Despite some Flatbush voters’ optimism for improvement under Cuomo’s education reform, his promise falls on mostly deaf ears.
“You keep hoping,” says Carly Menard, the father of a 16 year old student in the area, shaking his head in irritation “But you hardly see any changes.”
External photo: compliments of NYC educator