What Does The New York City Charter School Battle Tell Us?

In the Spotlight

During the New York City Mayoral election, then candidate Bill de Blasio vowed to promote the city’s public school system and take a close look at the resources and support going to charter schools. His Republican opponent, Joe Lhota, fervently criticized de Blasio’s intentions to slow down the growth of charter schools.
Now, some de Blasio supporters who also support charter school systems are finding themselves disappointed by their new mayor.  On March 6th, the de Blasio administration canceled three previously made agreements that would have allowed charter schools to continue to share facility space with district schools in public school buildings free of charge. The move could lead to the closing of the charter schools or an expensive recollection.
While criticized by some, the mayor’s  move toward not allowing charter schools to utilize public school space for free should not come as a surprise. His campaign often stressed that he views charter schools, specifically ones backed by well-financed donors and foundations, to be unfairly skirting space costs. These funds, according to de Blasio, are desperately needed for  the revitalization of the city’s faltering public school system.
Regardless of whether or not the mayor should pull city support from the charter school system, one clear fact still remains about New York City public schools: they continue to serve a large number of low-income students and are failing to sustain quality education for them.  While those who fight for the continued support of charter schools argue they largely serve a vulnerable population of children who hail from low-income neighborhoods, it must not be forgotten that so do a number of city public schools.
The debate surrounding the fate of New York City charter schools should instead shift to focus on how to improve the entire education system that encompasses the charter school system,  which currently serves over 50,000 New York City students. Without an important shift in dialogue, the fate of education for low-income children will continue to suffer.

Direct Service Implications

The potential for the closing of schools and relocation of students raises serious concerns and issues around the success and well-being of young people. As the de Blasio administration argued when deciding to keep schools open during particularly bad weather this winter, for many of the most vulnerable New Yorkers, schools are an important, dependable, and safe place for students to be.
Service providers that work with youth and families should be prepared to work with clients who may be coping with added stress or issues related to school status uncertainty. Additional information is available through the New York City Charter School Center and the Department of Education’s Charter School Accountability and Support website.

Courtesy of McSilver Institute of Poverty Policy and Research who has kindly given SJS permission to syndicate this piece.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the articles listed in the Policy News Briefs are not necessarily the views of the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research or NYU’s Silver School of Social Work. If you have comments or suggestions about this service, contact us at 212-998-5937 or simply reply to this email.


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