Charter Schools vs. 'My Schools'
March 22nd, 2010
Spending for charter schools represents less than 2 percent of the city’s $11.3 billion five-year capital plan for city schools, but you would not have known that from Friday’s hearing on the capital budget. An unlikely one-two punch of two Brooklyn council members — Charles Barron from East New York and Dominic Recchia from Bensonhurst — used the Education Committee session to voice opposition to the administration’s promotion of the privately run, publicly funded charter schools. Other members quickly picked up the criticism, questioning whether the Department of Education’s failures lie at the root of the charter schools’ alleged success.
The acrimonious exchanges Friday represented just another indication that charters have emerged as one of the hot-button issues in New York.
Defending charters, Kathleen Grimm, deputy chancellor for instruction and portfolio planning, noted some 30,000 students are in waiting lists for the schools.
This prompted an explosion from Recchia. “I could take away that list in one hour,” Recchia said by giving regular public schools — he referred to these as “my schools” — the same rights and advantages the charters get. “Give my school the same funding and the same support,” he demanded.
After advising Recchia to take a breath, education committee chair Robert Jackson essentially echoed his comments, albeit in more measured tones. “If they paid as much attention to public schools as to charter schools, public schools would be much better off,” Jackson said. “The failure of public schools lies at the feet of the mayor and the chancellor.”
Daniel Dromm, a new council member and onetime teacher, questioned whether charter schools might succeed because they do not have to comply with city regulations and policies. “Why is it the freedom accorded charter school canít be afforded regular public schools?” he asked. In particular Dromm called on Grimm — and the department — to look at requirements for reporting and data collection that, he said, “take away from teaching time and collaboration.”
The exchange in the City Council came a day after State Sen. Bill Perkins, who has emerged as a leading charter critic, announced the would hold hearings next month. (See previous post.) In a statement, Perkins said charter operators and the management companies some of them hire “are not subject to the same requirements of transparency and accountability required of public schools.”
Meanwhile Crain’s reports that, charter supporters are striking back. Daniel Clark, a charter parent from Harlem, has launched a group called
Parents Organizing to Win Education Reform, or P.O.W.E.R. NOW, to try to elect charter supporters to office. While the parents may not have big bucks their allies do, according to Crain’s “including Joel Greenblatt and John Petry of hedge fund Gotham Capital, who are board members at former City Councilmember Eva Moskowitz’s Harlem Success charter network, and Anthony Davis, of Anchorage Capital Management.
Petry and Davis, along with Charles Ledley of Cornwall Capital, and Whitney Tilson of T2 Partners and Tilson Funds, sit on the http://www.dfer.org/list/about/board/ board of Democrats for Education Reform, another decidedly pro charter group.
On the other side, the United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew told Crain’s he would “ramp up efforts” to counter the charter movement’s political activity and leadership, which he says is driven by people interested in “making profits off of public education.”
The battle seems certain to head up even more as the state tries to remain in the competition for federal Race to the Top funds. Some state officials — including Mayor Michael Bloomberg — have Charter Schools Enter Uncharted Waters in Gotham Gazette.By Gail Robinson on March 22, 2010, 12:51 pm
In category: City Hall, Education | 1 Comment »