New York City mayor Bill de Blasio held a news conference last week announcing his “recent educational budget commitments”. His report included the addition of $20 million for arts programs; $145 million for middle school after-school activities; and his signature project, universal pre-kindergarten, received $300 million, says Sally Goldenberg, a writer for Capital New York. What he did not announce was the increase in funding for charter schools from $1.06 billion in funding for this year to $1.3 billion next year – an increased of 22.6%.
De Blasio’s budget spokeswoman explained that the growing cost of funding charter schools can be attributed to rising tuition rates and enrollment growth in this fiscal year and the fast-approaching next fiscal school year. The preliminary budget, released on February 12, was based on 183 charter schools whose enrollment had increased by 1,073 children.
For the 2015 fiscal year, the added number of students will be 4,487. Both of these growth factors are due in part to the mayor’s decision to have 14 charters share space with existing public schools. The charters were approved by former mayor, Michael Bloomberg. These were schools founded by Eva Moskowitz, with the support and approval of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
This support of charter schools by the mayor is a bit surprising in light of de Blasio’s shaky relationship with charters. The mayor earlier had blocked three schools from sharing space, but later allowed them to rent space in former Catholic schools.
All three of the public charters affected by the new policy reversal are run by Success Academies, a chain of 22 high-performing schools created by Eva Moskowitz.
Moskowitz, who was a rival of de Blasio’s when both served on the New York City Council, attracted special attention from de Blasio as he campaigned last year. At an event sponsored by the teachers union, de Blasio said: “It’s time for Eva Moskowitz to stop having the run of the place … She has to stop being tolerated, enabled, supported.”
During his mayoral campaign he criticized both Moskowitz and the governor for their positions on the charter school movement. Mayor de Blasio also rankled many when he suggested that he would be open to charging some of the wealthy charter schools rent for using public school facilities. The mayor attempted damage control to erase his previous less-than enthusiastic endorsement of charter schools by delivering a speech explaining that he was not anti-charter.
U.S. House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor (R-Virginia), visited the Bronx Charter School for Excellence in the Parkchester neighborhood (one of the recipients of the 2012 National Blue Ribbon Award given by the U.S. Department of Education for excellence). Cantor has blasted de Blasio’s refusal to allow the three charter schools to share facilities with three public schools, but, since the mayor reversed that decision, Cantor minded his manners during his visit to the Bronx School. Anne Karni, reporting for the New York Daily News, stated that Cantor’s hope was that all could work together to ” focus on the kids first”.