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New York, NY - Charter Schools Worry About Bill de Blasio's Plans

Published on: December 25, 2013 07:29 PM
By: AP
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File Photo Credit: Rob Bennett for the Office of Mayor-elect Bill de BlasioFile Photo Credit: Rob Bennett for the Office of Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio

New York, NY - Operators of New York City’s publicly financed, privately run charter schools are bracing for changes promised by Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio — including the possibility of having to pay rent — that they worry could reverse 12 years of growth enjoyed under Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

De Blasio has pledged to charge rent to “well-resourced” charter schools and has called for a moratorium on allowing new charters to share buildings with traditional schools, taking aim at a Bloomberg policy that helped the schools grow from 17 to 183 during his time in office. The policy has also led to complaints that the charters draw an unfair amount of resources.

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“It is insult to injury to give them free rent,” de Blasio said last summer, while campaigning for the Democratic nomination.

Charter school backers around the country are watching to see what happens in New York — which they consider an incubator for the charter school movement — while de Blasio supporters hope that the changes help fulfill his campaign promise to improve educational access for all children. De Blasio takes office on Jan. 1.

“The nation as a whole has always looked to New York City in this area,” said Nina Rees, president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “The climate in New York City is a healthy one because of the co-location arrangements.”

A majority of the nation’s charter schools either pay rent or are paying off a loan or bond issue for their buildings, according to Rees’ group, but New York City real estate pressures make that a challenge. She said that many charter schools wouldn’t have been able to open if they had to find their own building and start from scratch.

It’s unclear how much New York’s charters would pay. De Blasio has said he would use a sliding scale, with deep-pocketed charter operators forced to pay more, while some schools would continue to pay nothing. A spokeswoman said that de Blasio would work out the plan with his schools chancellor.

The city’s Independent Budget Office estimates that facility costs for the 40,000 charter school students in co-located buildings average $2,320 per pupil and that the city could raise $92 million if it charged rent. There are 114 charter schools co-located within traditional schools.

Critics note that more than a dozen New York City charter school executives are paid more than current New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott’s $212,614. Harlem Village Academies chief Deborah Kenny earns $499,146. Eva Moskowitz, a former City Council member and founder of Success Academies, earns $475,244.

Moskowitz has grown Success from one Harlem school in 2006 to 20 schools in several neighborhoods, with six more slated to open next fall. Its 6,700 pupils make it the city’s largest charter operator.

“We can’t afford it, and it would be taking dollars away from children and from their education to pay rent on a public school,” said Kerri Lyon, a spokeswoman for Success.

Moskowitz — who helped stage a march of more than 10,0000 people across the Brooklyn Bridge to protest de Blasio’s plans in October — has been singled out by de Blasio for criticism.

“There’s no way in hell Eva Moskowitz should get free rent, OK? ” de Blasio said at a forum in June. He told a United Federation of Teachers meeting last May that Moskowitz’s schools have “a destructive impact on the schools they’re going into.”

Schools that share space typically use separate entrances and have separate floors. Charter school detractors have complained that charter students get the best of everything, from playground equipment to bathrooms.

Ellen Darensbourg, a teacher at Public School 241, which shares a Harlem building with Harlem Success Academy 4 and another charter school, said that her school has been forced to move around the building numerous times over the last six years to give the charters more space.

Darensbourg said P.S. 241’s physical and occupational therapists have to work with special-needs kids in the hallway and the art teacher moves from room to room with a cart because the school no longer has a classroom — though the Success Academy school has an art classroom.

“It’s OK for their kids to have an art studio but it wasn’t necessary for our kids,” she said.

Lyon said that Success Academy generally enjoys a “pretty positive relationships with the schools that we share space with.”

Charter schools are run by private entities and have more freedom than traditional public schools to set their own hours and curriculum and pupils are chosen by lottery. Supporters say they give families an alternative to substandard public schools, while opponents point to studies that show mixed results.

New York City’s 70,000 charter school pupils represent about 6 percent of the city’s 1.1 million public school students.

Bill Phillips, president of the Northeast Charter Schools Network, said that charging rent and halting co-locations would slow the growth of charters to a trickle and deprive families of an option they want.

“These are public school kids,” Phillips said. “It is perfectly appropriate for them to be in public school space.”


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Read Comments (8)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Dec 25, 2013 at 09:32 PM curious Says:

Big joke.
De Blasio is correct on this. Charter schools are only successful because they play by no rules. Putting money and resources back into public schools will help all children, not just the children that are selected to go to schools that keep out any child they don't want. Bloomberg recently allowed another charter school in Old Mill Basin. As a school for the gifted, it will suck all of the good students out of the Mill Basin area. Most schools to be affected are good schools. All the other schools will deteriorate. Additionaly, the charter will open in a JHS that has recently undeniably shown tramendous improvement. The charter school will take space from the JHS and is an inappropriate environment for an elementary school.

2

 Dec 25, 2013 at 10:09 PM esther Says:

Reply to #1  
curious Says:

Big joke.
De Blasio is correct on this. Charter schools are only successful because they play by no rules. Putting money and resources back into public schools will help all children, not just the children that are selected to go to schools that keep out any child they don't want. Bloomberg recently allowed another charter school in Old Mill Basin. As a school for the gifted, it will suck all of the good students out of the Mill Basin area. Most schools to be affected are good schools. All the other schools will deteriorate. Additionaly, the charter will open in a JHS that has recently undeniably shown tramendous improvement. The charter school will take space from the JHS and is an inappropriate environment for an elementary school.

Are you a member of a public school teacher's union because you sure sound like one.What on earth do you mean charter schools play by no rules? Not the union's rules you mean.Yeah,right, throwing even more money at public schools will fix the problems.So motivated and or gifted students should suffer and be denied better schools because that will drain the brain pool so to speak? More absurdity.

3

 Dec 26, 2013 at 07:53 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
esther Says:

Are you a member of a public school teacher's union because you sure sound like one.What on earth do you mean charter schools play by no rules? Not the union's rules you mean.Yeah,right, throwing even more money at public schools will fix the problems.So motivated and or gifted students should suffer and be denied better schools because that will drain the brain pool so to speak? More absurdity.

One thing that charter schools do is pretest the children about a month before the mandatory NY State tests. If the children do not do well, then they are kicked out to the public schools. These under-performing children arrive at their new school about a week or two before the NY State test, which doesn't allow enough time to bring them up to a level that would get them to pass the test. The children's bad scores on the tests are then attributed to their new public school rather than to the charter school that failed to teach them properly. Thus, the charter schools can maintain an illusion that they provide a superior education.

4

 Dec 26, 2013 at 09:38 AM Phineas Says:

Reply to #3  
Anonymous Says:

One thing that charter schools do is pretest the children about a month before the mandatory NY State tests. If the children do not do well, then they are kicked out to the public schools. These under-performing children arrive at their new school about a week or two before the NY State test, which doesn't allow enough time to bring them up to a level that would get them to pass the test. The children's bad scores on the tests are then attributed to their new public school rather than to the charter school that failed to teach them properly. Thus, the charter schools can maintain an illusion that they provide a superior education.

then pass legislation to change the charter school practice of ejecting kids mid-year but let people choose their school.

5

 Dec 26, 2013 at 10:56 AM janda3 Says:

why not just improve the already existing public schools to make them on par? yes, gifted students do deserve a different type of education. but not all students are gifted.

6

 Dec 26, 2013 at 11:24 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #3  
Anonymous Says:

One thing that charter schools do is pretest the children about a month before the mandatory NY State tests. If the children do not do well, then they are kicked out to the public schools. These under-performing children arrive at their new school about a week or two before the NY State test, which doesn't allow enough time to bring them up to a level that would get them to pass the test. The children's bad scores on the tests are then attributed to their new public school rather than to the charter school that failed to teach them properly. Thus, the charter schools can maintain an illusion that they provide a superior education.

Not every charter does this. Facts, data etc need to be presented (with their source).

7

 Dec 26, 2013 at 11:59 AM Mentsh Says:

"Curious" is right. These charter schools suck great kids out of the public schools, further segregating society and taking resources away from those who need them. If more kids went to regular public schools, you would see a vast improvement. I believe we should bring back NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOLS in the city; you would see how much better teaching and learning would become... local high schools would no longer be terrible places for the less-than-motivated. Additionally, there would be more cohesive communities. I know most of you send your children to yeshivas, but a generation or two ago, most Jews went to public schools -- and look how good they were. Full disclosure: I am a teacher and school administrator with a background in educational research and policy.

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 Dec 26, 2013 at 05:50 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #4  
Phineas Says:

then pass legislation to change the charter school practice of ejecting kids mid-year but let people choose their school.

That would be highly unlikely. About the only requirement that NY State has for charter schools is that the schools perform at least as well as the public schools. There are some very powerful and well-connected people who make millions of dollars off of these charter schools, primarily through the sale of property to the schools, as well as by the building of these schools; I highly doubt that they would stand by idly while legislation was passed restricting their access to this cash-cow.

I know people who have worked in charter schools, and they have told me the way that the schools could get around any state requirement. Because most of these schools are run like prisons or like the military, it is very easy for a child to get a demerit. If the child is a good student, then the teachers are ordered to overlook any bad behavior. If a child is low-performing, the teachers are ordered to give them enough demerits to get the kids expelled (coughing = talking, cleaning eyeglasses = not paying attention, etc). Therefore, the principal can say that the child was expelled for bad behavior rather than for bad grades.

9

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