Selected readings on US charter schools
“This is an attack on the 99 percent. It’s wrong,” said Eva Moskowitz, CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools and a former City Council member who has fought for years to expand charters.
She said the decision Friday by Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña to divert $210 million earmarked for building new charters toward expansion of pre-kindergarten programs instead was “very disappointing. It does not bode well for kids.”
“We need to replicate what’s working, not attack what’s working,” Moskowitz said.
Under the Bloomberg administration, similar capital-budget allocations acted as seed money to draw grants from philanthropists to fund new charters. The money helped build eight to 10 new school buildings every four years.
It’s unclear what new school buildings would have been funded by the $210 million diverted by the de Blasio administration.
But some charter organizations — swamped with applications from parents hoping to pull children out of poor-performing schools — have big plans. For instance, Moskowitz’s Success Academy now operates 22 schools across the city, and plans on opening dozens more in the next few years.
“A kid is a kid is a kid,” Moskowitz said. “We are public charter schools. The operating revenue should be the same. The capital revenue should be the same.”
“They’re playing with our kids,” said Mery Melendez, whose 7-year-old daughter attends KIPP Star Washington Heights Elementary School.
“Charter or non-charter, they’re all our kids,” Melendez said. “They’re the chancellor’s kids and New York City’s kids and they need help for all of them.”
“This is turning into a war between parents,” said Natasha Muñoz of The Bronx, who also has a child in the KIPP Star school in Washington Heights.
“It’s ridiculous. We all want the best for our children,” Muñoz said. “If [charter schools] are working, why is there so much hoopla about it?”
Neither de Blasio nor his spokespeople could be reached for comment on the issue Saturday. De Blasio’s views about charters are in line with the unions that backed his election.
Many charter backers saw Fariña’s decision coming and don’t expect the $210 million to be restored to the capital budget. Some are waiting to see what role de Blasio will give them in his goal of providing pre-kindergarten for 70,000 children.
“Charter leaders and charter teachers and charter parents are incredibly eager and willing to work with this mayor to make his pre-K program the resounding success it needs to be,” said James Merriman of the New York City Charter School Center.
“If he is not willing to support charters’ participation in pre-K, then I think you have to conclude that unfortunately something is going on here that is very much about ideology and not about making the pre-K program work.”
Others caution that it’s hard to see how de Blasio’s antipathy toward charter schools will shake out in terms of city policy.
“There’s a lot of campaign rhetoric, and both sides are trying to get their points across,” said Jeffrey Litt, superintendent of the seven Icahn Charter Schools in The Bronx.
“It affects a lot of kids, and I don’t think the mayor wants to hurt children, so I’m not really that worried. Let’s see what happens,” Litt said.
Single mom Mery Melendez lost her own mother to cancer when she was 10 years old and went through the city’s public school system with little mentorship. She knew she wanted better for daughter Briannie and applied to several charters — getting a spot at KIPP Star Washington Heights Elementary School.
“I was the happiest mom ever,” said Melendez, who works as a parent organizer for pro-charter group Families for Excellent Schools. “I’m still in love with the school.”
As a kindergartner, Briannie was reading books and already talking about going to college. Today, she’s in second grade, loves Chinese Club — one of several elective subjects at the school — and has her eyes on Columbia University.
“I know for a fact she is going to go to college,” Melendez said. “[The school] already has us planning on how to pay for it.”
The proud mom bashed Mayor de Blasio’s plan to divert charter funding to pre-kindergarten programs.
“I don’t understand why he’s attacking charter kids,” she said. “Most of them are minorities and come from low-income communities. How is he helping the disparity that he’s talking about with the ‘tale of two cities?’ ”
Yvonne Guillen’s 7-year-old daughter, Carisma, went from shy and retiring to an energetic “student of the week” shortly after switching to a Bronx charter elementary school.
Last year, Guillen’s family moved from Yonkers — where teachers said Carisma wasn’t at reading level — to The Bronx. She refused to send her children to local schools, which had “C” ratings on progress reports.
When Carisma and her sister, Leilani, got into Girls Prep Bronx Elementary School, Guillen said it was like “hitting the jackpot.”
“[Carisma] was being overlooked in her old school. Her teacher didn’t know her potential,” said Guillen, who is a stay-at-home mom and whose husband is on disability. “Now she raises her hand all the time and is eager to learn.”
Guillen said Carisma, who started second grade at Girls Prep Bronx this school year, was nominated for a free Horace Mann tutoring program on Saturdays.
“What is [Mayor de Blasio] going to offer me as a parent?” Guillen fumed. “Charters are working for me. They’re giving my kids the education they should be getting.
“Please, look at what you’re doing. Put your political pride aside,” she added.
Thomas Kirby says his three sons are getting a private-school-level education for a public-school price — free.
“I grew up in New York public schools. I wanted a better experience for my kids,” said Kirby, a human-services case manager. “Charter schools give working- class people like me and my wife options for our children’s education.”
Kirby’s oldest son, Javon, 14, attends a KIPP high school, while Avonte, 11, goes to KIPP middle school in the South Bronx.
Second-grader Kyle, 7, attends a KIPP elementary school and is excelling at math because teachers provide more one-on-one tutoring.
“Kyle has two teachers and they text us constantly,” Kirby said. “We’re always communicating with their teachers. We know all of the teachers at the school by first name. Teachers will even come to the home if necessary.”
Kirby, who voted for Mayor de Blasio, is disappointed with his proposal to yank charter funding.
“He talks about fairness — but fairness has to be all-inclusive,” he said.
Source: New York Post – by Carl Campanile, Bill Sanderson, Kate Briquelet and Sabrina Ford