Charter Schools see rise in parental support

Amity Paye | 4/12/2011, 5:31 p.m.

Last January, the Community Education Council, parents and teachers expressed anger over inequities between public schools and the new charter schools, which are becoming more and more prominent in Black communities such as Harlem.

So, with the start of school last week, all eyes were on the 27 new charter schools opening up around the city. Now parents' support for these charter schools is becoming more positive.

A Daily News-Marist Institute poll done this month shows that 60 percent of parents with children in the New York public school system agree with the statement, "Charter schools are a good thing because they give more choices to parents and kids."

The number of people who agree with this

statement jumped to 67 percent among African-Americans who participated in the poll.

Rita Tishuk, director of development and communication at the Renaissance Charter High School for Innovation, which just opened this year, said, "Parents are very receptive to the school. We received 400 applications for 135 seats, which means about 1/3 of eligible 8th graders in East Harlem applied to the school...Parents have told us that they are excited about having a high-achieving school open to all students close to home."

Just 31 percent of all parents and 28 percent of African-American parents surveyed in the Daily News-Marist Institute poll believe the statement, "Charter schools are a bad thing because they take resources away from public schools."

But Tishuk said, like many public schools, the biggest issue for new charter schools is "start-up funding. Everybody has been feeling the pinch because of budget cuts."

With primary elections finished, the debate over charter schools promises to remain a talking point for this year's candidates for state and local offices.

In Harlem, which has the most charter schools of any area of Manhattan, the charter school debate has been going strong all summer.

Mark H. Pollard and Velmanette Montgomery have been arguing for and against (respectively) charter schools, gaining the support (and criticisms) of various charter schools and unions. Bill Perkins has also spoken out against charter schools during his campaign season.

Only time will tell what legislation is passed concerning charter schools, but in the meantime, new charter schools like Renaissance Charter High School for Innovation "have many charter goals but, primarily, we want all of our students to graduate in four years and get into a college or post-secondary program of their choice," said Tishuk. "We want our students to leave with all the tools they'll need for a successful life."