Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Denying NYC parents the most basic choice of all

The Carl Icahn charter school in the Bronx is the most popular school in the city – according to the Daily News, with only 3% of applicants able to get in. Its principal notes that "You cannot fail at Icahn Charter because I have a million programs there to help you."

Why? All classes at the school are capped at 18, according to its website and an article in the NY Sun. Classes run to 4 PM, with Saturday help for any child who needs it.

And yet this administration, which promotes charter schools at every opportunity, allowed class size to rise in our regular public schools in all grades this year but 4th – despite $150 million in state aid that was targeted specifically to reducing class size. More than 66,000 students-- or about one quarter of all NYC public school children in grades K-3 are now in classes of 25 or more– an increase of more than 11, 000 students compared to last year. There are nearly 14,000 students in grades 1-3 in classes over 28 – a 36% jump.

The size of Kindergarten classes increased so much that average class size is now as large as in 2002 – when the mayor was first elected. Next year will likely be worse – with hundreds of parents on waiting lists for their zoned neighborhood schools. See articles about waiting lists in Chelsea, Upper East side, and Greenwich village – even after increasing class size to 25 – the union contractual maximum -- in all these neighborhood schools.

The administration says it will provide 100,000 seats for charter school students by 2012 – though there are only 25,000 new seats in the entire proposed five year capital plan. This means that they are planning to take at least 75,000 seats from our already overcrowded regular public schools – with more closing of neighborhood schools to make way for charters, and higher class sizes for those kids sent elsewhere.

Charter school promoters like Eli Broad constantly say that charter schools are “laboratories for success that others can emulate within a public-school system. So I'm a very strong believer in mayoral control."

Not sure what the meaning of “laboratories for success” is when the Mayor and the Chancellor resolutely refuses to implement the same reforms that make charter schools successful in the regular public schools they control – even when state law demands it.

And I’m not sure what parental “choice” means, which the administration claims to support, when they are insistent on taking away the most basic choice of all from parents – to send their children to their zoned neighborhood public schools. Some might even see it as a right -- except for the people who run this city, who would rather see the dissolution of our public schools so that privatization can prevail.


NYC Educator said...

I couldn't agree more. Nothing, but nothing, benefits neighborhoods like good public schools. It's clear this administration is more focused on what benefits the likes of Eva Moskowitz.

Anonymous said...

So what should a public school parent do? Is our only choice not to vote for the mayor? It seems like everyone is on the Charter School bandwagon including the Secretary of Education. I enjoy reading your blog, but I do feel hopeless.

Leonie Haimson said...

join our parent commission; sign our petition. more info at

Anonymous said...

Oy, once again you attribute all success in charter schools to class sizes.

a) many of them have class sizes as large or larger than zoned schools

b) there are are a countless other reasons why some charter schools succeed where many zoned schools haven't, and they have nothing to do with class size or $.

Patrick J. Sullivan said...


I don't actually see evidence that charters have more success than public schools. The studies comparing children who were randomly accepted with those who went to public schools don't show much difference in achievement. Do you have some evidence to the contrary?

But I'd be interested in hearing why you think charters are successful. Parents quoted in articles point to smaller class sizes and more enrichment. Commenters here on the blog and the Manhattan Institute's Jay Green say the difference is the simple absence of unions. What do you say makes the difference?