Last Thursday, thousands of parents, teachers and students gathered in Foley Square in lower Manhattan for what is believed to be one of the largest rallies for charter schools the city has seen. Reports indicate that more than 20,000 people attended, with most wearing red T-shirts that read: “Don’t Steal Possible.”
The rally was put together by the organization Families for Excellent Schools, which believes that the city’s public schools are failing so badly that charter schools are the only solution.
“Every day, in every borough, children have possible stolen from their school day. These students don’t learn to read,” said Families for Excellent Schools. “They cannot write. They can’t do math. A small number of excellent schools, both district and charter, are beating the odds every single day. They show us the path forward.”
The organization also says that 143,000 students in the city are stuck in failing schools and that 1 in 4 New York City schools are failing 90 percent of their students. Officials from Families for Excellent Schools are trying to get the ear of Mayor Bill de Blasio to approve more charter schools.
In a video statement, the mayor said that making improvements to public schools should be the focus.
“When it comes to education, the answer is not to find an escape route that some can follow and others can’t,” said de Blasio. “The answer is to fix the entire system.”
Families for Excellent Schools took their message to the airwaves, paying nearly half a million dollars to release ads attacking public schools. Supporters of public schools say charters should be transparent about where their money is coming from.
“New Yorkers deserve an answer to the question, who are the hedge fund millionaires who are funding these attack ads?” said Zakiyah Ansari, advocacy director of the Alliance for Quality Education. “If they actually cared about our children, they would spend their millions on ads that promote increasing public school funding, not on policies that perpetuate a harmful, separate and unequal education system.”
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools recently unveiled a new report that ranks the “health” of the public charter school movement in 26 states, including the District of Columbia. New York ranked fifth in the report.
“The Health of the Public Charter School Movement: A State-by-State Analysis” is a companion to the National Alliance’s annual rankings that evaluate each state’s charter school law.
According to the report, 127 charters opened in New York between 2009 and 2010 and between 2013 and 2014, a 13.6 percent average annual open rate. The report also found that only two communities in New York had more than 10 percent of their public school students in charters during 2012 to 13.
However, while charter schools were being praised last week, a report released this summer said that students at one charter school are not doing as well as touted.
Harlem Success Academy 1, headed by Eva Moskowitz, reportedly started with 73 enrolled first-grade students in the fall of 2006, but only 32 students who were Black and Latino graduated. None of the students scored high enough to enter the city’s top high schools. Twenty-two of those students went to Success Academy’s high school. Moskowitz said in the report that she was “shocked” that none of her students made it into any of the city’s elite public high schools.