Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Governor Cuomo, don't Devos-state our Schools! And how the charter lobby uses DOE charter collaboration in their push to raise the cap

Tomorrow Wed. April 5 at 4:30 PM we will rally outside Governor Cuomo's office at 633 3rd Ave. (40th/41st), to protest his refusal to adequately fund our public schools and his insistence on expanding charters and raising their funding.  Please join us; come with your kids and bring signs!

The NY state budget is deadlocked with one of the main sticking points related to whether the cap on charters will be lifted statewide, as the GOP-dominated State Senate have proposed, lifted only in NYC as Gov. Cuomo wants, or not at all as the Democratic majority in the Assembly insists.

There are already 264 charter schools in the state, and 212 of them are in NYC, according to the NY Charter Center.  131 more charter schools are allowable outside NYC – and 30 more here in NYC.  For some reason, the hedge fund/charter lobby is most intent on expanding charters inside the city, even though we already have the lion's share.

At the same time, the Governor is also pushing proposals to boost charter funding while cutting state reimbursement that will cost the city up to $220 million more, while losing $52 million in state reimbursement. At the same time, he refuses to provide our public schools with the nearly $2 billion owed them according to the Foundation formula.  Instead he wants to totally ditch the formula, developed as a result of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity decision which ruled that more state education funding should go to high-needs districts, rather than be based on political deal-making by three men in a room, as it was in the past and would be in the future if Cuomo gets his way.

Why is there such an obsession on the part of the Republican leaders in the State Senate and the Governor to favor charter schools? Not because of pressure from constituents or any alleged charter school waiting lists which no one ever audits, but because of the vast sums of money the Governor and the NY State Republican party receives in campaign money from the NYC hedgefund/charter lobby.

As reported by Politico, the pro-charter group New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany, managed by StudentsFirstNY. spent $5.2 million on Republican candidates running for the State Senate, more than a third of the total spent by super PACs as a whole.  Gov. Cuomo has also received vast amounts of money from pro-charter hedge funders and billionaires – as reported here by George Joseph in the Nation,  and Juan Gonzalez in the Daily News .

This year, $1.7 billion was drained from the DOE budget by charter schools; this amount will certainly increase even without the Legislature approving the proposals to lift the cap or boost their funding, as many of the 212 NYC charters already authorized are rapidly growing in enrollment and expanding to new grade levels..  Not to mention the hugely negative impact of co-located charters on our public schools, squeezing them of space– or the approximately $40 million a year the DOE is paying in rent for charters not co-located in public schools.

Meanwhile, for inexplicable reasons, the DOE is spending close to $ 3 million this year on their district-charter “partnership” program -- which will increase to $5 million next year..  The ostensible goal of this initiative is for districts to learn from the “best practices” of charter schools, whatever they may be.   One of the charter chains participating in this program that our public schools are supposed to emulate is Uncommon charters, known for having uncommonly high suspension rates.

Even as the Mayor is on the record as opposing the lifting of the cap or increasing their funding, the NYC charter center is also using this "partnership" program in their propaganda campaign to advocate for the cap to be lifted.

See  three different ads from the NYC Charter Center inserted into Politico and City and State newsletters every single day since March 20.  (In Politico, the ads are prefaced with these words: ** A message from New York City Charter School Center, words missing in City and State.

Ad #1: New York City’s charter schools are committed to helping all public schools improve. In fact, one charter network is training new teachers from over 40 district schools throughout Brooklyn as part of the Department of Education’s district-charter partnership program. New York needs more quality public schools – charters are part of the solution. Support Governor Cuomo’s Executive Budget and lift the cap on charters in NYC!  Learn More

Ad #2: Chancellor Fariña recently stated that charter schools are not the problem; they are part of the solution. It's time to stop worrying about school governance structures and focus on more quality public school options for all New York families. Lift the arbitrary cap on charters! Learn More. ** 

Ad #3: Charter schools are a vital part of New York's public education system. NYC charter schools are not only working to ensure their students are achieving at their full potential, but several charter leaders are helping to improve district schools through the NYC Department of Education's district-charter partnership programs. Problem is, there still aren't enough great public schools to serve the tens of thousands of students who need them now. Charter schools have proven their commitment to and success in supporting high need and at-risk students. That's why families are applying in droves and wait lists are 44,000 students long. Charter schools provide proven opportunities for opening quality schools quickly. Potential school leaders should not be discouraged from planning a great public school just because of an arbitrary cap. Support Governor Cuomo's Executive Budget and lift the cap on charters in NYC! Learn more. **

While Mayor de Blasio has spoken out against lifting the cap, Chancellor Farina has not opposed any single NYC charter school under consideration by the Regents or SUNY for authorization or renewal as far as I know – though Superintendents of other districts regularly do so when charters are proposed for their districts.

I was speaking in Yonkers before their Council of PTAs last night about the threat of privatization from the federal government and the state --and they informed me that there is only one charter school that has ever been authorized in Yonkers, perhaps because of the organized, unified opposition by district leadership and elected officials when they are proposed.  What a shame.  My Yonkers PTA presentation is below.  thanks Leonie

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