New York City’s charter school leaders are calling upon Mayor Bill de Blasio to double the number of charter school seats available to students by 2020. According to an editorial published in today’s Daily News by the leaders of Achievement First, Uncommon Schools, KIPP, Public Prep, and Coney Island Prep, NYC students are best served by expanding access public charter schools “so that every family looking for a high-quality school can, in fact, attend one.” They write,
New York City’s public charter schools are now reaching 100,000 students, a size that would make them, combined, the 29th largest school district in the country. Charter schools now educate one out of every 10 students in the city and serve more children than the districts of Washington, Baltimore, Boston and San Francisco.
Once classified as an experiment, Gotham’s charter sector is now the largest scaled, high-performing charter district in the country — filled with top, nationally-recognized organizations that support real success for the city’s most vulnerable communities.
The editorial precedes a charter school rally scheduled next week in Prospect Park that is sponsored by Families for Excellent Schools and Success Academy founder Eva Moskowitz (who is not a signatory of the letter). The keynote speaker at the rally will be Rep. Hakeem Jeffries who, according to Politico, “has been mentioned as a possible challenger” to de Blasio in the Democratic primary next year.
The rally will focus — as the editorial does — on the de Blasio Administration’s reluctance to offer abandoned or under-enrolled DOE facilities to charter schools, a sharp departure from Bloomberg Administration practices. In fact, the Mayor’s refusal to share space comes at taxpayer expense; according to a 2014 law, the city must offer rental assistance when they deny facilities space to charters.. Last year, reports Chalkbeat, these fees came to $10 million.
Currently there are 150,000 empty seats in DOE buildings.
Those rental fees are not the only cost to city residents. In 2016, according to the editorial, “children who attended public charter schools in these eight districts were 146% more likely to pass state exams than students at traditional district schools, and three times more likely to score at the highest proficiency level.”
Mayor de Blasio’s disdain for alternative public schools pits him against many of the city’s low-income residents. The NYC Charter School Center reports that there are 44,460 children on charter school waiting lists; put another way, there were 68,000 applicants for 23,600 available seats in the 2016-2017 lotteries. Among current charter school students, 77% are economically-disadvantaged. Yet when charter school students out-performed traditional school students on state proficiency tests, de Blasio attributed the disparity to “test prep.” Jeremiah Kittredge, head of Families for Excellent Schools, assailed the Mayor “for practically kicking kids who did well in the shins to try and please the teachers union.”
Mayor de Blasio is fighting a losing battle that invalidates his progressive and populist roots. His political future, as well as the academic aspirations of NYC parents and children, will depend on whether he can muster the will to abide by what the editorial writers call “a moral, political and economic obligation” to public education.