Selected readings on US charter schools
De Blasio vs. Moskowitz and other charter school operators and parents
Are Eva Moskowitz and Bill de Blasio on a collision course?
The high stakes in the race for mayor will rise further when an estimated 10,000 charter school parents, teachers and kids march across the Brooklyn Bridge in early October. Their message to the next mayor: Stop bashing charters, many of which are delivering high-quality education to 70,000 kids who might otherwise end up in low-performing schools.
“The march is about quality and equality,” says Eva Moskowitz, CEO of the Success Charter Network, the largest group of charter schools. “Parents are very nervous and anxious about what’s going to happen when the political guard changes.”
Charter operators have every reason to be worried, too. The contest between Democrat Bill de Blasio and Republican Joe Lhota is becoming, in part, a referendum on whether New York’s turbulent experiment to expand educational alternatives will continue beyond Mayor Bloomberg.
Lhota is a strong supporter of the city’s 183 charters, which are public schools with exemptions from many rules — including, in most cases, the teachers union contract. He wants existing charters to thrive and far more new ones to open.
De Blasio, by contrast, has made a series of promises that, to charter school managers, sound like a declaration of war.
“We don’t need more charters,” he said at a candidates forum in May.
De Blasio was even more pointed at a June forum, according to Gotham Schools, a website, declaring “there is no way in hell that Eva Moskowitz should get free rent, okay? . . . It is insult to injury to give them free rent.”
Along these lines, he vows to freeze co-locations, the placing of charters in the same buildings as regular district schools.
“It’s just plain unfair,” says Ian Rowe, CEO of Public Prep, which runs three charters. “There are a thousand public schools that co-locate, and not one of them pays rent.”
If forced to pay rent in this pricey city, many charters — which are, after all, public schools — would be forced to move or shrink. Some might even be forced to close their doors. Ending co-locations would make it harder for new charters to find spaces that are suitable for teaching children.
The charter operators — caught off guard by the late-summer surge that carried de Blasio to his victory in the primary — are now scrambling to engage the Democratic nominee in a less hostile conversation.
That will be a tricky task. De Blasio, currently 40 percentage points ahead of Lhota in the polls, can point to his months of very public hostility to charters. I made clear what I had in mind, he can truthfully say, and the voters have spoken.
Fair enough. But Team de Blasio is about to get a reminder that the parents of 70,000 kids enrolled in charters — and of the 50,000 on waiting lists to get into one — are not a voting bloc to be ignored in the closing weeks of a political campaign.
“We’re marching to show the next mayor we’re no different from the parents in district schools. We live on the same floors of the same buildings, we’re the same kids,” says Joe Herrera, a parent from Coney Island Prep. “Don’t starve our schools by requiring them to pay rent.”
Best of all would be a return to the original vision of charter schools — an idea hatched by, of all people, Albert Shanker, the longtime president of the United Federation of Teachers. He intended charters as limited experiments in relaxed rules that would enable teachers to discover new teaching techniques that could be swiftly shared across all public schools.
Shortly before his death, Shanker denounced the direction of the charter school movement, which began to focus on competition, rather than collaboration, with traditional schools. When the dust settles from the upcoming rally and election, responsible leaders must try to recapture that thread of common purpose and figure out how to build, share and expand schools that work.
Source: New York Daily News – by Errol Louis (Political anchor of NY1 News)