New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is on a mission to limit school choice by making it more difficult for charter schools to operate in New York City.
The president of Northeast Charter Schools asserts that NYC spent years building one of the most robust charter school communities in the nation, but de Blasio is doing his best to tear it down.
“If New York City has been a national model for growing charters, I think Mayor de Blasio is laying out a blueprint for killing charter expansion,” said Bill Phillips, whose charter school group provides service for New York and Connecticut. “This is clearly a blueprint: Do everything on your power to take away access to buildings. Facilities are almost always one of the major challenges for charters across the country.”
The Mayor’s new strategy is to charge rent to charter schools that “co-locate” with other schools in the district. Up until now, charter schools have operated in the same buildings as other schools to keep costs low and create an opportunity for smaller classrooms. Last week, de Blasio announced he is pulling the plug on $210 million in funding set aside for charter school buildings and re-directing it toward increasing pre-school programs.
Last fall, during de Blasio’s run for mayor, he argued that charter schools have a “destructive impact” on traditional schools and should have to pay to use public classrooms. Moreover, he emphasized full-day pre-kindergarten classes for 50,000 four-year-olds as the cornerstone of his education platform.
By taking money allocated for charter schools, de Blasio is putting a big dent in the $530 million expenditure for his pre-school project. In New York City, 70,000 students attend charter schools, and more than 50,000 are on waiting lists.
As a top priority of de Blasio’s administration, he has placed a moratorium on new charter school co-locations. Moreover, de Blasio seeks to eliminate co-locations already approved by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “He doesn’t want co-location, and he pulled every little bit of money that charter schools could use to build their own space,” Phillips said. “Kids need to go into buildings. … It’s very clear that he wants to make it more difficult for existing charters and make sure there’s no expansion of chartering in New York City.”
Phillips and other charter school operators are leaving New York and refocusing their energy and resources on other states like Connecticut because “a charter skeptic just replaced a pro-charter mayor,” the Independent reports. The charter school expert says that parents in general don’t get too deep into the political aspects of education: “Parents are not ideological about labels. They just want better choices. When you make it hard for charters to grow, you’re taking away choice from families.”