To counteract the growing exodus of families from the New York City school system, a group of City Council members, including Councilmen Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island) and Kalman Yeger (D-Brooklyn), are strategically pushing for new legislation to subsidize parents who send their children to private schools. This groundbreaking bill aims to explore the feasibility of subsidies for schools including Catholic, parochial, private schools, and yeshivas. The proposal suggests reimbursements of up to $10,000 annually for tuition payments.
The initiative, backed by the eight-member “Common Sense Caucus,” is a bid to retain families wary of the public education system in the Big Apple. “We have seen parents flee the school [public] system and seek alternatives they might not be able to afford,” remarked Borelli.
The Department of Finance and the Department of Education would jointly conduct a study to determine the best approach to administer such a program, as per the draft legislation. The proposed local law is slated for introduction at the Council’s meeting on Thursday, September 14th.
The cost of this initiative is estimated to exceed $2 billion, given that 221,000 students were enrolled in private schools last year, as per data from the nonprofit Empire Center for Public Policy. The bill aligns with the growing “school choice” movement, where public education funds are allocated to private schools chosen by families. Similar programs are already in place in states like Iowa, Illinois, Florida, and South Dakota.
While New York offers limited school-choice options through its publicly funded but privately operated charter schools, the city’s cap of 275 charter schools has driven many parents to opt for private education or leave the city in search of superior public schools.
“Building a thriving ‘school choice’ network would bring great benefits for students,” stated Councilman Borelli. Councilman Yeger echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the need for more options for parents. He highlighted the recent trend of parents and children abandoning the city’s school system.
Over the past decade, NYC’s public school enrollment has seen a sharp decline of over 20%, dropping from 1.1 million students to approximately 860,000. Both Yeger and Borelli attribute much of this decline to policies under former Mayor Bill de Blasio and ex-Department of Education Chancellor Richard Carranza. However, they praised DOE Chancellor David Banks for his efforts to rectify the situation.