"It just sounds like this is going to be an episode of 'Mythbusters' here," said NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta at a press conference in Albany today.
State legislators and education advocates were on hand to bust myths on charter school accountability and to voice opposition to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposal to raise the cap on the number of charter schools in New York state.
PRESS RELEASE: Dozens of Legislators Join Education Advocates to Demand Charter School Accountability and Oppose Opening of More Privately Run Charters
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Alliance for Quality Education, Communications Coordinator
518.432.5313 or 518.421.0454
ALBANY (June 9 2015) – Dozens of state legislators will join the education advocates in calling for a halt to opening more charter school as well as legislation that will require charter school accountability.
The proposals for accountability include requiring them to serve the needs of all students, ending racially disparate and harsh discipline practices, and preventing fraud and mismanagement of funds.
Two dozen elected officials with the Alliance for Quality Education, Citizen Action of New York, New York Communities for Change, New York State United Teachers and the United Federation of Teachers will call for sweeping changes to require that charter schools follow similar rules as public schools – including serving all children, eliminate racially disparate and overly harsh discipline practices, and follow tightly monitored fiscal practices to prevent fraud and provide accountability.
Privately run charter schools enroll lower proportions of special needs students and English language learners than public schools. A recent poll by Washington-based Gerstein Bocian Agne Strategies found that 89 percent of New Yorkers believe charters should serve high-need students and 89 percent want more accountability for charters. Over $54 million in potential fraud, waste and abuse has already been identified in New York charters underlining the need for fraud prevention and greater accountability.
“New York needs to focus on providing the resources to public schools that our children deserve and are entitled to,” said Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz. “Attacking teachers, over-testing, and increasing the number of charter schools hurt our children. With so many empty seats in charter schools and so many more charter schools in the pipeline, it would be outrageous to raise the cap. In fact, we should lower the cap. Let’s focus our energy on improving public schools. There are plenty of millionaires and billionaires to look out for charter schools.”
The press conference also highlighted the latest study from Hedge Clippers that found that New York City-based Families for Excellent Schools, a charter school advocacy group, has spent more than $10 million on ads and lobbying since January 2014 to lift the charter school cap and allow for the creation of more of the publicly funded, privately run schools.
“New York State’s students do not need the charter school cap to be raised. With thousands of charter seats unfilled, our attention should not be focused on making even more charters possible, but rather, on supporting our state’s traditional public schools and students,” said Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell.
“Simply put, there is no need to increase the Charter Cap,” said Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon. “There are 30,000 seats vacant and on-line in New York City already. Fill the seats. There are 25 approved charters for New York City that have not yet opened. Far too few charter schools serve students with special needs. Open the schools. Fill the Seats. Serve all our children.”
“Every time Governor Cuomo talks about more and more charters it translates into more and more hedge fund campaign donations for him,” said Billy Easton, Executive Director for the Alliance of Quality Education. But we should not be talking about more charters, we should be talking about holding the charters we have to the same standards we hold our public schools. They should serve the same students, they should stop refusing to fill their empty seats, and they should root out fraud and waste.”
“There is no compelling reason to lift the cap this legislative session. There are still well over 100 slots remaining under New York existing charter law,” said New York State United Teacher Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta. “Charters still have not lived up to the promises made in 2010. New York should not even begin considering increasing the number of charter schools until they begin serving all students, and are held accountable on their waiting lists and how they spend the public’s money.”
“With charter schools failing to serve the needs of all students, it makes no sense to even consider raising the cap, especially when there’s so little transparency in their operations,” said Karen Scharff, Executive Director of Citizen Action of New York. “During the few remaining weeks in this year’s session, the Legislature must focus on ensuring that the charters that already exist are held to the same standards as public schools.”
“There is no need to raise the cap,” said Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers. “We have thousands of empty seats right now, and 27,000 more charter seats coming on line in the next five years. If Albany raises the cap, the majority of new charters – possibly as many as 250 – will open in New York City, which is on the hook to find space for these new charters – which doesn’t exist – or pay their private rent. Raising the charter cap is unnecessary and will drain resources from tradition public schools.”
“There is no reason to raise the charter cap and open more of these hedge fund backed schools,” said Jonathan Westin, Executive Director of the New York Communities for Change. “What low-income communities need are well-funded public schools and community schools that serve the need of all children, not just the lucky few that fill charter schools’ criteria.”
“Charter schools continue to drain much-needed resources from traditional public schools, which educate the vast majority of students in our state,” said Timothy G. Kremer, executive director of the New York State School Boards Association. “Instead of raising the charter school cap, state lawmakers should be examining how to give local school boards the same flexibility and freedom from state mandates that they provide to charter schools.”
“The state simply cannot afford to allow the addition of more charter schools at a time when our public schools are reeling from inadequate funding,” said Mario Cilento, President of the New York State AFL-CIO. “Charter schools lack accountability, don’t serve the same populations as public schools and pull funds from where they are needed most. Fully investing in our public school system and addressing the needs of the poorest districts should be the priority.”
“The current cap on charter schools have not been exhausted state-wide. There are many other ways for the state to help struggling schools, charter school expansion is not one,” said Henry Garrido, Executive Director of ASFME, DC 37.