Thousands of parents, students, and educators were in attendance at a pro-charter school rally in Brooklyn's Prospect Park earlier in the week, where they were treated to a performance by rapper Common.
The rally, organized by the Families for Excellent Schools, was put together in an effort to push New York City to increase its public charter school sector. The group is asking that it double in size to reach 200,000 students by 2020. Organizer Yvonne Guillen said that around 60,000 students were enrolled in charter schools around four years ago, and has since grown to 100,000.
It is estimated that 25,000 school teachers, parents, and students from all five boroughs came together for the two hour #PathtoPossible rally and march.
"It's just to incredible that we got so many of our families and, we don't really communicate so much with all of the schools," teacher Jackie Lenoff said. "But that all of us were able to gather, so many people, it's really incredible."
Organizers noted that the event was put together not only to celebrate the success that charter schools have had in the area, but also to bring attention to the need for additional funding for these schools.
While students in attendance skipped school in order to go to the rally, parents said their children were receiving an education by joining in a rally that is just as valuable as the one they would have received sitting in their classrooms.
"It's the first time they've allowed the kids to attend these events, so I think it was a bigger education for them," parent Ulises Velazquez said. "Because they see now what charter schools mean to us as parents."
Families for Excellent Schools argued that doubling the number of students enrolled in charter schools would help to eliminate the achievement gap that is currently affecting many low-income children. One attending parent told Joe Torres for ABC7 that he hopes the event will cause politicians to take note that these schools should be available to benefit all children, adding that it should be every child or parent's choice to enroll.
The highlight of the entire day may have been hip hop artist and civil rights activist Common, who not only spoke to the crowd, but also performed. "You've been shown the love to be able to get into these schools and excel as a student," he told the crowd. The Academy Award and Golden Globe-winning rapper was on stage for almost 20 minutes, writes Ben Chapman for The New York Daily News.
"Every kid from every neighborhood deserves a great education, and New York City's public charter schools are bringing this vision to life," Common said. "I'm proud to support charter school families in their fight."
Congressman Hakeem Jeffries and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. also spoke in support of the event.
Earlier in the week, 19 elected officials signed a letter in support of charter schools throughout the city. The letter was signed by elected officials from every borough, including Jeffries and Diaz.