Hurdles for a Plan to Turn Catholic Classrooms Into Charter Schools

Javier Hernandez:

To the Roman Catholic bishop of Brooklyn, it seemed like an act of salvation on par with Noah and the ark. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg heralded it as a “win-win situation.”
They had unveiled a plan to convert four Catholic schools scheduled for closing into public charter schools, giving their students and teachers a soft landing and avoiding a crippling infusion of children into crowded neighborhood schools. But despite the celebratory air this month as Mr. Bloomberg and the bishop, Nicholas A. DiMarzio, announced the idea, the plan faces significant legal, political and educational hurdles.
Lawsuits over church-state questions seem inevitable. And with the mayor already locked in a battle to keep control of the city’s public schools, it may be an inopportune time to ask Albany to scrap a law that bars the conversion of private schools into charter schools.
If the proposal is approved, it would allow four charter schools to be created without the perennial problem of finding classroom space. It could also result in a new type of charter school, one led largely by traditional institutions like the Roman Catholic Church, in a movement that has been dominated by out-of-the-box organizations branded as agents of change.