Charter Pulse

Selected readings on US charter schools

New York, Chicago, and the war on charter schools

opportunity“They’re charter schools. They’re on their own now.”

— New York Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina, on the city’s move to deny classrooms to students of a high-performing charter school

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has launched a war against charter schools. His administration’s hostility is summed up by the comments of Farina, his choice to run the city’s schools. She sent a chilling warning to thousands of parents and schoolchildren.

In recent weeks, de Blasio has:

• Canceled plans for three high-quality Success Academy Charter Schools to be co-located in public schools. One of those endangered is among the city’s highest-performing middle schools, Success Academy Harlem 4. You’ll remember the Success Academy schools from the terrific documentary “Waiting For Superman” and the hundreds of desperate low-income students (and parents) who sought a precious charter seat via an annual city lottery.

• Diverted $210 million earmarked for charter school construction to other education programs.

• Moved to fulfill his most significant charter-choking pledge: To charge the schools rent, based on a sliding scale, extracting the most money from the schools with the greatest cash reserves. That’s a major reversal of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s policy of allotting free space to charters in public schools. New York charters receive no state funding, and if they’re suddenly charged rent, particularly with Manhattan’s exorbitant rates, many will struggle. The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research recently estimated that charging charter schools significant rents would create budget deficits for 7 in 10 of the city’s charters. Want to kill charters? Bleed them financially.

New York’s newly elected public advocate, Letitia James, joined the charter bashing, pursuing a lawsuit to shut 19 charter co-locations approved last year under Bloomberg. She may ask a judge to suspend the charters’ annual admission lotteries until the issue of co-locations is settled.

But a welcome thing has happened. The assault on charter schools has been met by a public backlash. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has forcefully defended charters. Many New Yorkers have made it clear that they elected de Blasio — but they didn’t elect him to push poor children out of successful schools.

Farina and de Blasio have felt the heat and have tried to step back. Farina said she regretted her cold comments about charters being “on their own” and would try to find space for an expansion of Success Academy Harlem 4.

New York is having the kind of upfront debate over the future of charter schools that Chicago and Illinois need to have. Instead, conflicts over charter schools here have been simmering on several fronts.

Illinois created a commission in 2011 to authorize charter schools that had been rejected by local school officials. Now there’s a move to eliminate the commission. It may come to a vote in the Illinois House in the next couple of weeks.

Dozens of Chicago school buildings that were closed last year sit empty even though charter operators could use some of them. Facing a furor over school closings, Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett promised that those buildings wouldn’t be made available to charter schools. That was an unfortunate decision that denies new school options for Chicago children. The operators of one charter, The Orange School, say it won’t open this fall because they couldn’t find affordable facilities. Had a shuttered CPS neighborhood school been available …

As we discuss in another editorial on this page, innovative school choice efforts have been launched in several other states but have been stifled here.

The rhetoric against charter school expansion is so strong in some quarters, you’d think they were crack houses or strip clubs angling to come in and pollute a neighborhood. They areschools. Many boast a great track record of educating students, helping them to reach college. Some propose innovative curricula focused on science and math, or the arts. Some find ways to help at-risk children stay in school and dropouts earn a diploma.

This is not a bloodless bureaucratic turf battle, here or in New York. It’s a conflict that denies opportunity to many students.

“This is the future of my children they are playing games with,” Success Academy parent Maria Rodriguez told The Washington Post. On the school network’s Facebook page, she said: “All I want is the best education for my children.”

Charter enrollment in Illinois has surged from 6,152 students in 2000 to 59,925 this school year — with most of them in Chicago — according to the Illinois State Board of Education.

Yet there is huge resistance, and that has stifled the pace of change. Critics of charter schools present them as a threat to traditional schools. But for students, they are an opportunity. New York is having a harsh but needed debate. It’s time to bring the simmering battle over charter schools in Illinois into the open.

Source: Chicago Tribune


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This entry was posted on March 17, 2014 by in Charter Schools, NATIONWIDE, States.


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