Tension Continues Between Lhota, de Blasio Over NYC Charter Schools

A fight continues between Republican New York mayoral candidate Joseph J. Lhota and Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio over the current and future roles of charter schools in the city. The 2013 New York City mayoral election is scheduled to occur on November 5th, and education has been a major issue in the campaign.

In an ad released last week, Lhota said de Blasio wants to roll back the successes of charter schools. De Blasio, in a recent debate, said the charter conversation has usurped a disproportionate share of psychic attention and he would institute a broader focus on the system at large, according to Ginia Bellafante of The New York Times.

As students enrolled in charters are overwhelmingly from poor, minority families, Lhota in turn has cited his opponent’s inadequate devotion to them as proof of a false progressivism, a claim he has no trouble making at the same time that he calls de Blasio’s campaign the end product of “a Marxist playbook.”

Eva Moskowitz, the founder of the high-performing Success Academy network, and other charter-school leaders this month joined thousands of families to protest over their belief that de Blasio’s agenda is destructive to school choice.

According to de Blasio, he would charge sufficiently-endowed charter schools rent for using public-school space. However, his opponents think it is not financially tenable to charge rent to schools that already receive less per pupil funding than traditional schools. During his tenure as the city’s public advocate, de Blasio also called for a more efficient and transparent process to determine how charter schools are physically incorporated into traditional school spaces.

Stacey Gauthier, principal of the Renaissance Charter School in Jackson Heights in Queens, said they did not participate in the rally because they believe it was pointless to do so until more was known about de Blasio’s position.

“We have a lot in common with him, his emphasis on universal pre-K and after-school funding and college readiness,” Gauthier said. “My feeling was, let’s have a conversation before we go across the Brooklyn Bridge.”

According to Gauthier, their school has rejected the militaristic culture of many charter schools that impose harsh penalties on students for relatively minor infractions.

In Renaissance, children are not required to wear uniforms and call teachers and administrators by their first names. The school’s location has left it more economically and racially diverse than many of its peers. About 65% of its students receive free or reduced lunches, and 53% of its students are Hispanic, with the rest mostly black and Asian.