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Pro-Charter-School Ad Called Racist

A Pro-Charter-School Ad Is Stirring Up Debate in New York City

An ad airing on New York City television stations is raising some eyebrows — some say it is shows the truth about the city's current educational system, while others say it is racist.

Produced by a pro-charter-school group called Families For Excellent Schools, the ad features two young boys, one white and one African American. When the young white boy is walking to school with a parent, the narrator says, "Because he lives in a wealthy neighborhood, this 6-year-old will attend a good school." When the African-American boy is walking to school hand in hand with a parent, the narrator says, "Because he lives in a poor neighborhood, this 6-year-old will be forced in a failing school."

The ad then cuts to a side-by-side shot of the children in opposing schools — one reading a book, and the other with his head resting on his desk. It concludes with the narrator saying, "Mayor de Blasio, stop forcing kids into failing schools. Half a million children need new schools, now."

It is an issue that is quickly dividing the city, which has the largest school system in the nation — 1.1 million students in over 1,800 schools.

The group behind the ad, including the owners of the largest charter schools in the city, believe that NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio hasn't done enough to better education in lower-income areas. They argue that "de Blasio is putting black and Latino students at a disadvantage by not supporting the growth of the city's charter sector."

But the mayor's supporters believe that charter schools are "diverting money, resources, and space from our public schools." They're calling the add racist: "These folks have figured out a way to make profit off the same kids that they disdained for years and years. As far as I'm concerned, it's predatory education, subprime schools," Bertha Lewis, the founder of the Black Institute, a civil rights nonprofit, says. "None of them wouldn't be doing this if it wasn't making enormous profit. To then turn around and say, 'Oh black people, I'm trying to save you from the big bad white man, the mayor, who wants to put you in a failing school' — that's racist."

Regardless of which side you fall on, there's no denying the power of the ad — and the fact that it is stirring up debate.

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