Parents and charter school advocates in New York City are furious over what seems to be the opening salvo in a war on charter schools by new Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The anger comes after School Chancellor Carmen Farina diverted $210 million that had been planned for building new charters to expanding the city's pre-kindergarten program.
Under the Bloomberg administration, similar capital-budget allocations acted as seed money to draw grants from philanthropists to fund new charters. The money helped build eight to 10 new school buildings every four years. It's unclear what new school buildings would have been funded by the $210 million diverted by the de Blasio administration.
New York City charters have been swamped with parents pulling children out of low performing schools. Many of the charters have big plans — Eva Moskowitz's Success Academy plans on adding dozens more to her 22 schools across the city. She says that kids are kids, and public charter schools should have the same operating and capital revenue as other schools.
Writers at the New York Post reported that neither de Blasio nor his spokespeople could be reached for comment, but that his views on charters line up with the unions that supported his election. Some charters expected Farina's decision and weren't surprised by the $210 million change; others are still waiting to see what de Blasio will do in regards to providing pre-Kindergarten for 70,000 children.
"Charter leaders and charter teachers and charter parents are incredibly eager and willing to work with this mayor to make his pre-K program the resounding success it needs to be," said James Merriman of the New York City Charter School Center."If he is not willing to support charters' participation in pre-K, then I think you have to conclude that unfortunately something is going on here that is very much about ideology and not about making the pre-K program work."
Others say that his opinion towards charters may play out differently. Jeffrey Litt, superintendent of the seven Icahn Charter schools in The Bronx, says he doesn't "think the mayor wants to hurt children, so I'm not really that worried. Let's see what happens".
Parents of children who attend charter schools have much to say about de Blasio's assumed "war" on charter schools. None of it is good.
Thomas Kirby says his children are getting a private school education for a free public school price. "I grew up in New York public schools. I wanted a better experience for my kids, charter schools give working- class people like me and my wife options for our children's education." Kirby, voted for Mayor de Blasio, and says he is disappointed with the proposal to eliminate charter funding. "He talks about fairness — but fairness has to be all-inclusive."