Democratic legislators criticized Governor Kathy Hochul’s plans to lift the New York State cap on charter schools at an education budget meeting held on Wednesday, February 8. Hochul made room for the lifting of the cap in her recent budget proposal, creating room for the expansion of charter schools in the state. If the cap were to be lifted as per Governor Hochul’s wishes, 100 more charter schools would be allowed to operate in the state.
“This is another way of dismantling our public school system even though charter schools are considered public schools. This is a direct dismantling, and this will create more disparities and more segregation,” Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte-Hermlyn said. “This is bad. I think this is very alarming. very alarming.”
State Senator Robert Jackson agreed with his colleague, claiming that more charter schools would have a devastating impact on traditional public schools. The anti-charter school Democrats are aligned with the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), the teachers union that represents traditional public school teachers in New York City. The UFT does not represent any of the teachers that are employed in the city’s charter schools.
Assemblyman Sam Pirozzolo pointed out how the UFT seemed to be in control of Democrats opposing charter school changes proposed by Governor Hochul, who is also a Democrat. “You have to be kidding me,” Pirozzolo said. “The United Federation of Teachers does not and should not have a lock on education in New York City.”
The Positives of Charter Schools
While some see charter schools as detractors from public schools, many see their positives. “Charter schools deliver for students. Students in public charter schools regularly exceed the statewide averages in reading, writing and math proficiency rates, according to the school report card data available on the New York State Education Department website,” said Yomika Bennett, executive director of the New York Charter Schools Association.
Schools Chancellor David Banks chose to express a more neutral point of view. “I don’t see this as an ‘us and them’ for my purposes, but I do recognize the challenge that we do have, particularly as relates to colocation of schools,” he added. It costs approximately $200 million to operate the currently 146 charters in the same buildings as other public schools. There has been lobbying for the Department of Education to assist in the cost of charter schools finding their own space, to much criticism and no avail.
Charter schools have become an integral part of New York City’s education landscape. This year they received approximately $3 billion, almost 10%, from the city’s education budget as per the Department of Education. The publicly funded but privately run schools are seen as a viable second option for students in the city. Mostly located in minority areas, 29% of charter school students are Black according to the NY Post. LittleAfrica News recently reported on proposed legislation that would see the opening of more charter schools.