Gov. Cuomo has urged the state Legislature to lift the cap on the number of charter schools allowed to open in New York City, but has been met with resistance from legislators who oppose charters on the grounds that they are the playgrounds of wealthy hedge funders bent on privatizing education. Tell that to the church in Queens that built a charter from the ground up with the support of volunteers and the community.
Rochdale Early Advantage Charter School is currently recognized by the New York State Education Department as a “Reward School for High Academic Achievement and Showing the Most Progress in the State.” According to the Department of Education’s school surveys, parents are well pleased with the school, which currently has 680 kids on its waiting list for admission.
The school is housed within New Jerusalem Baptist Church, having sprung from the community it now serves, across the street from Rochdale Village, the largest housing cooperative in the city when it was built in the early 1960s. The church has 2,600 members and is led by Bishop Calvin Rice, a South Carolina native who graduated from the last segregated class of his high school. Many of the congregation’s families have similar histories grounded in the American South, and it was these memories that led a group of them to conceive of the plan for the school in 2008.
They did not have financial backing, but they had a strong community and the resolve to create a school that could do better for their children than the local public schools.
Ray Domanico is the director of education policy at the Manhattan Institute.
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