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Thousands Of Charter Schools Supporters Rally In Brooklyn

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Charter school supporters held a massive rally Wednesday, marching over the Brooklyn Bridge and rallying in Mayor Bill de Blasio's front yard on the steps of City Hall.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, the highly-charged and emotional rally started at Cadman Plaza in downtown Brooklyn, where Grammy- and Oscar-winning star Jennifer Hudson performed for the crowd.

The throng was awash in red T-shirts bearing the slogan, "I Fight to End Inequality.'' Some participants waved red flags.

Photos: Jennifer Hudson Performs At BK Charter School Rally

They chanted and begged Mayor Bill de Blasio to end what they call the tale of two school systems -- charters versus public schools, CBS2's Kramer reported.

The downtown Brooklyn rally drew huge crowds, with organizers putting the tally at well over 18,000.

But there was a much smaller group at City Hall. Construction was going on in the plaza, so police limited the crowd to several hundred.

Still, that did nothing to silence the passion, or the demands that Mayor de Blasio go all in for charters.

"I have seen firsthand how the mayor is failing our public schools," said public school parent Patrick Cabiness. "At my son's school, nine out of 10 kids do not read at grade level."

The rally included many children and parents from the Success Academy charter school network. Eva Moskowitz, the head of Success Academy, put the problem succinctly.

"We've got two separate school systems where if you're white and affluent, you're probably going to be OK. But if you're a kid of color, you're most likely trapped in a failing school at the age of 5 and then you're going to go to a failed middle school and a failed high school," she told Kramer.

Zarida Teel is a parent of child at Girls Prep charter school and spoke of her own experience in a public school.

"The school exposed children to the idea of prison when it should have been exposing them to the idea of college," she said at the rally.

Jessica Ramos' brother spent eight years in public schools. He's been in a charter school since September and she said she's already noticed a difference.

"In the way he speaks and the expectations that are coming from him," she said. "He's aware that now he's going to go to college."

Kimberly Hanley said her son Jaden just started Success Academy Harlem 2 after attending a district school. Hanley said educators at the charter school take time with the third-grader and make sure he understands the lessons.

Another mother at the rally named Karen said her child is in a charter school in Brooklyn and is doing above average work. She said she's rallying for the kids who didn't get into charter schools.

"We want equality for all children, all across public schools," she told 1010 WINS' Carol D'Auria. "It's not about charter schools, it's not about public schools, it's about all children having an equal opportunity to have a good education."

In the current public school system, children who do not get into a charter school must go the public school they are zoned for, even if it's a failing school, D'Auria reported.

Also rallying at City Hall was Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., an ardent supporter of charters for the work he says they do in improving education for minority students for poor neighborhoods.

The rally was sponsored by families for excellent schools, a pro-charter group that gets donations from Wall Street.

"All we want from you, Mr. Mayor, is to treat them equitably," Diaz said.

The mayor has not exactly been a strong proponent of charter schools. He is currently in a dispute with Moskowitz, who said the mayor broke a promise to find space for seven new charter schools.

"The mayor has to listen to parents," Moskowitz said. "They know what's best for their child, and what they're being offered is not good enough. It wouldn't be good enough for his kids, it's not good enough for my kids, and it shouldn't be good enough for other people's kids to go to a failed school."

Speaking Wednesday morning on 1010 WINS, de Blasio said all New York City public schools will be "brought up to the point of excellence."

"The vast majority of our kids, about 93, 94 percent of our kids are in traditional public schools," he said. "We have to turn them around so I am absolutely committed to reaching children in every neighborhood in a way, that bluntly, they haven't been reached in the past."

The mayor's Deputy Press Secretary Wiley Norvell also put out a statement saying: "Mayor de Blasio is focused on ensuring that every child, in every classroom has a future that isn't limited by their ZIP code. We believe that's the path to raising achievement -- not just for some students, but for all students.

Moskowitz was at the first charter rally in downtown Brooklyn, with more than 18,500 in attendance. Complaints about public schools were the same there as at City Hall.

City Hall said it will find space for all the new charters that have been approved, but they have until March for schools that will not open until next September.

The rally was loaded with political implications, Kramer reported. Moskowitz and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who led the rally at City Hall, are both being discussed as potential challengers to de Blasio in 2017.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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