New York State has approved 17 new charter schools for the New York City area.
The move has increased one of the largest charter networks, Success Academy, and has simultaneously increased the fervor of an argument over the placement of the new schools.
The charter schools committee for the state, a part of the State University of New York, approved 14 new schools for the academy, bringing their new total to 50 schools. They plan to have 16,300 students enrolled by 2016.
The other 3 approved schools are part of the Achievement First charter school network.
“I’ve talked to a lot of parents, and the one thing that I am convinced of is that the parents in the communities where these schools are do not care about the politics of this issue,” said Joseph W. Belluck, the committee chairman. “They want their kids to have good schools, and they want their kids to have a good education.”
School locations are up to city officials to decide. While former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an avid supporter of charter schools, had offered room in existing public school buildings, current Mayor Bill de Blasio said he may be taking a different approach to the situation. A new state law requires free space to be offered to charter schools or a portion of rent be paid for them in a private space. If an agreement cannot be reached, the situation may reach the court system.
“We look forward to working with the Department of Education to identify appropriate locations so that these schools can open and more children have an opportunity to receive the high-quality education they want and deserve,” Success Academy’s founder, Eva S. Moskowitz said.
Although charter schools operate independently of the public school system, they do receive public money, causing much debate in New York City over equal resources between different types of public schools.
Charter school supporters argue that the flexibility in staffing and scheduling make them a better choice over the public school system. Many charter schools in the area also routinely outperform public school students on state tests, causing many parents whose children attend low-performing schools to move their children to the charter schools, or sign up on a wait list to do so.
However, not everyone feels the same way, and many critics made their feelings known at public meetings held prior to the addition of the new schools, citing such issues as limited space, funding competition, as well as that charter schools draw away so many students that the public schools then become under-enrolled.
“We have a right to say what happens with taxpayer dollars,” said Tesa Wilson, a parent who heads District 14′s Community Education Council.
“This is about oversight. This is about accountability,” said Daniel Dromm, chair of the City Council’s education committee. “This is about creating better public schools in New York City.”