Sean Combs has founded a new charter school in East Harlem, not far from where Combs grew up. The school, Capital Preparatory Harlem is the only new charter school opening in Harlem this year. It’s on 104th Street at Fifth Avenue, in the building that houses the Museo Del Barrio. The kids got in through a lottery with priority given to those living nearby.
“I love my community,” Combs said. “I love New York I love Harlem and it’s great to be able to do something for the community.”
The opening of the school is a culmination of several years of work by Combs. He donated money to the project and then obtained a license and state funding. The school opened on Monday where Combs gave a welcome speech to the incoming class of 6th snd 7th graders.
“You can have a dream to be a doctor, a rapper, an engineer,” Combs said. “After you have that dream you have to actually open your eyes and handle the reality of what it’s going to take to achieve that dream.”
Many kids listened intently to what Combs had to say and were determined to not take this opportunity for granted.
“Listen to your teachers, do your homework, study, support each other, be leaders,” Combs said. “Be leaders, that’s what this school is about. And always remember can’t stop won’t stop.”
The school has 176 sixth and seventh graders now and plans to expand a grade a year until it is a sixth through twelfth grade school with 700 students. Like other charter schools in the area, applicants far outnumber available seats.
This brings up an interesting debate always raised with charter schools. Public funds are being used to create a higher level f education for a lucky few lottery winners. This creates a separate but unequal playing field among public schools.
What about the other kids who did not get into the lottery and have to attend nearby schools that are not nearly as well financed or equipped to help them succeed. Charter schools regularly receive public funds but are privately run. This is seen by many as a way to break teacher’s unions. It also is seen as an unequal playing ground where some children get ahead while others are left behind based on nothing more than a lottery system. The charter schools offer their students greater resources that are siphoned directly off of the existing public school system.
Under the Bloomberg administration,charter schools regularly received free rent in city owned school buildings. Bloomberg shuttered dozens of traditional public schools, displacing thousands of other minority students, a generally prized demographic for charters. Mayor Bill De Blasio ran on the promise to curb the expansion of charter schools.
Combs is clearly acting with his heart when he sets up a charter school in Harlem. Is he acting with his head? Couldn’t combs have simply given money to the public school system in general and had a more democratic impact? The debate of charter schools rages on in Harlem with some benefitting and others being left out in the cold.