NEW YORK: De Blasio quietly adds hundreds of millions for charters
When Mayor Bill de Blasio held a news conference on Monday touting his recent educational budget commitments, he highlighted additional money he will spend on arts programs ($20 million), after-school activities for middle schools ($145 million) and his signature proposal, universal pre-kindergarten ($300 million).
He did not mention the multi-million-dollar boost for charter schools.
Tucked in a 291-page document related to the Fiscal Year 2015 budget he unveiled on May 8 are two increases to charter schools: $26.9 million for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, and an extra $219.7 million for next year. Those figures reflect spikes from the preliminary fiscal plan he unveiled in February.
That brings the total amount his administration plans to spend on charters in FY2015 to nearly $1.3 billion, up from $1.06 billion this year.
His budget spokeswoman, Amy Spitalnick, attributed the growing cost to higher tuition and expanded enrollment in both fiscal years, in part due to the mayor’s decision to allow 14 charters approved under his predecessor to move into existing public schools next year.
Since the preliminary budget was released on Feb. 12, enrollment in the city’s 183 charters has increased by 1,073 students for FY2014 and 4,487 students for FY2015, Spitalnick said.
The tuition went up $26.9 million in FY2014, accounting for the entire increase that year, and $83.7 million in the upcoming year.
It’s a noteworthy increase, given de Blasio’s awkward relationship with charters, which have proven one of the most difficult political issues for him in his first few months in office.
In February, de Blasio opted to allow 14 charters to take up space in public schools, over protests from his charter-skeptic Democratic colleagues like Public Advocate Letitia James and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who are trying to halt the co-locations in court.
De Blasio initially blocked three of the 17 schools former mayor Michael Bloomberg approved for co-location at the end of his mayoralty, but later agreed to help the threerent space in former Catholic schools after a bruising political fight with their founder, Eva Moskowitz. Gov. Andrew Cuomo also waded into the battle to defend Moskowtiz, leaving de Blasio short of allies on either side of the dispute.
In March, he delivered a speech at Riverside Church attempting to clarify that he is not anti-charter, after having criticized the Bloomberg administration’s favorable treatment of charters, and Moskowitz in particular, during his mayoral campaign.
“Time for Eva Moskowitz to stop having the run of the place,” he said, in a clip that was aired by pro-charter hosts on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” in March.
He also spoke of the “destructive impact” of her charters on the public schools they move into.
The city has to pay $13,527 per charter student, but a recent state law increased that amount to $13,777 per pupil.
Source: Capital New York – by Sally Goldenberg
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