At a press conference last week, state legislators, education activists and teachers’ unions called for a halt to charter school openings in addition to legislation that would require charter schools be held “accountable.”
Two dozen elected officials have linked up with the Alliance for Quality Education, Citizen Action of New York, New York Communities for Change, New York State United Teachers and the United Federation of Teachers to voice their desire for charter school to operate more like public schools, including tightly monitored fiscal practices to prevent fraud and mismanagement of funds, serving all children and eliminating what they feel are racially disparate and harsh discipline practices.
“There is no compelling reason to lift the cap this legislative session,” said New York State United Teachers Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta in a statement. “There are still well over 100 slots remaining under New York existing charter law.”
Pallotta said that charters haven’t lived up to the promises made back in 2010. “New York should not even begin considering increasing the number of charter schools until they begin serving all students and are held accountable on their waiting lists and how they spend the public’s money.”
Charter schools are privately run and enroll lower proportions of special needs students and students who either speak English as a second language or don’t know English at all. These schools have routinely come under fire for this in past.
“Every time Governor [Andrew] Cuomo talks about more and more charters, it translates into more and more hedge fund campaign donations for him,” said Billy Easton, executive director for the Alliance of Quality Education, in a statement. “But we should not be talking about more charters, we should be talking about holding the charters we have to the same standards we hold our public schools.
“They should serve the same students, they should stop refusing to fill their empty seats, and they should root out fraud and waste.”
During the news conference, the group also pointed to a study from the Hedge Clippers, an activist group that highlights income inequality by targeting hedge fund billionaires, that found the pro-charter school group Families for Excellent Schools had spent more than $10 million on ads and lobbying since January 2014 to lift the charter school cap and allow the creation of more publicly funded private institutions. According to a poll by Gerstein Bocian Agne Strategies, a public opinion research and strategy group based in Washington, D.C., 89 percent of New Yorkers believe charter schools should serve high-need students and 89 percent want more accountability for charters.
“If Albany raises the cap, the majority of new charters—possibly as many as 250—will open in New York City, which is on the hook to find space for these new charters, which doesn’t exist—or pay their private rent,” said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.