The Coalition of Community Charter Schools (C3S) is a Long Island City-based organization that advocates on behalf of the independent, self-managed charter schools in New York City.
Although Queens has far fewer charter schools than Brooklyn, Manhattan or the Bronx, C3S made its headquarters in the World’s Borough because nearly all the charter schools in Queens are independent.
And because the Queens charter schools stress their community roots and seek to play a collaborative role with district schools, there is far less friction between district and charter schools here than in other boroughs.
C3S came into existence during the last mayoral election when it became apparent that the new administration had a more skeptical stance regarding charter schools than the previous one, which had advocated strongly for the charter sector.
C3S felt that it could play a conciliatory role and work with the incoming administration while continuing to promote its model of community-based charter schools.
Of the more than 200 charter schools in the five boroughs, about half of them are part of charter networks and half are independent and make all critical decisions at the school.
C3S believes that self-managing charter schools are true to the original principles of the charter movement and, because of their autonomy, are able to offer highly innovative programming for their students and interact with their communities in creative ways to engage parents and other stakeholders in public education.
C3S has a specific nonprofit corporate structure that makes it unique among charter advocacy organizations. It is officially classified as a “Type 1 Support Organization” which means that its memberships have to vote on and approve its governing board.
Five of its eight board members are charter school leaders from the five boroughs. C3S believes that this structure truly allows them to speak as the collective voice of independent charter schools.
From October 11 to 13, C3S is holding its inaugural Independent Charter School Symposium at the Ravel Hotel in Long Island City. Charter School leaders and social activists from across the country are coming to share ideas, attend workshops and participate in a Town Hall Meeting during which the organization intends to pose some critical questions facing the charter school sector and decide on a future direction for advocacy that promotes the original principles behind the charter movement.
Steve Zimmerman is co-director of the Coalition of Community Charter Schools. He has founded two charter schools in Queens, Our World Neighborhood Charter School and Academy of the City Charter School.