NYC Rallies for Charters as School Choice Movement Looks to 2014

“School choice” was a little-known phrase even a few years ago — and now National School Choice Week 2014, an event advocate for increasing educational options for families, already has 2,500 schools signed up to run events during the week of January 26 to February 1, 2014. With 1.1 million students being represented already, participation is still growing with the event still months away.

“National School Choice Week 2014 is set to be the nation’s largest-ever celebration of educational choice,” said Andrew Campanella, president of NSCW. “In addition to schools, hundreds of organizations and millions of individuals will also maximize the Week to celebrate the benefits of school choice.”

According to National School Choice Week, the nonpartisan, nonpolitical campaign is dedicated to effective educational options for children. Participants in National School Choice Week support parents’ access to high-quality education for their children including public charter schools, private schools, high preforming public schools, magnet schools, online academies and home schooling.

“We are planning a whole week of events and want to open some of it up to the public, not just our school body,” said Dina Walton, business manager at Rocky Mountain Academy, a public charter school in Evergreen, Colorado that plans to participate in National School Choice Week 2014. “Parents in our community should know that they have multiple choices for the education of their kids and options for providing the best education possible.”

During last year’s National School Choice Week, partners held over 3,600 events nationwide, and it looks like this year will be even bigger.

The support for causes such as National School Choice Week could be seen in a rally that took place on Tuesday in New York City. In one of the biggest demonstrations in years, parents and children marched on City Hall to protest mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio’s plan to make charter schools pay rent.

According to Amber Sutherland, Yoav Gonen, and Leonard Greene of the New York Post, 20,000 people walked across the Brooklyn Bridge to protest the front-running mayoral candidate’s stance.

Republican candidate Joe Lhota, who denounced his opponent for undermining the “entire character of the charter system”, joined in the march across the bridge. He stated in an earlier speech that he is the concerned about the kids, not the United Federation of Teachers, and that it makes him the real progressive in the mayor’s race.

DeBlasio argues that he is not promoting completely changing the system for charters. He says he will charge schools based on ability to pay if he is elected.

“I think some of the charter-school activists should really think about and be more mindful of their choice of words when they are talking to children,” de Blasio said.

“I don’t think it’s particularly appropriate to scare children in that fashion. I said consistently we’ll work within the compact. Who won’t be so fine? Charters that are failing. Good charters are, by and large, going to be fine.”

Demonstrators said that the rent free space is a bargain for taxpayers and charters are able to make per-student dollars go further because they don’t have to pay high heathcare costs and teacher pensions.

Asking charters to pay rent may leave many middle and high school students without a school to attend because of building losses and cuts to critical programs.