Anxiety Over Charter Schools’ Future Mounts in NYC

February 7, 2014 Updated: October 8, 2018

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio’s cold treatment of charter schools is sparking visions of catastrophic scenarios for stakeholders and observers alike.

On Thursday, state officials rallied to allow the Girls Prep Bronx charter to co-locate its new school in a public school building in the Bronx.

The co-location was approved by the city’s Department of Education (DOE) last October. The new middle school would be filled mainly with fifth-graders who now attend Girls Prep Bronx elementary.

“In our community, we don’t often have a choice to send our children to an A-rated school, but Girls Prep has given us that chance,” said Rafael Lois, a parent at Girls Prep Bronx. “We want a great, A-rated middle school for our girls for next year, an option we believe every family in the Bronx should have.”

Yet the DOE is currently reviewing all 43 co-locations approved last fall. Moreover, two lawsuits are filed against the co-locations: one by the city’s teachers union and the other led by a group of parents and the city’s Public Advocate Letitia James.

As the middle school application deadline for public schools is already over, Girls Prep Bronx fifth-graders would have a tough time finding a seat next year if they bet everything on a new school that may not open its doors. At least four other charter schools are in the same situation.

De Blasio’s push against the rapid growth of charter schools gained momentum on Jan. 31 when Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina proposed to cut $210 million for charter school construction from the DOE capital budget.

The charter school construction fund was used to develop nine buildings since 2005 with the help of private investors.

The Threat of Rent

De Blasio said that he will charge some charter schools rent if they are co-located in public school buildings.

Seven out of 10 of charter schools would be in a fiscal deficit if forced to pay rent, according to research by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research released Feb. 6. More than 500 teachers may be fired as a result, writes author of the paper Stephen Eide, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a New York City think tank.

Eide is basing his calculations on a rent model offered by the city’s Independent Budget Office (IBO). He concluded the schools would end up with an average deficit of nearly $700,000.

De Blasio said he would charge rent “on a sliding scale,” depending on the fiscal situation of each charter school.

Based on the total annual revenue, the largest charter school operator in the city is the Success Academy Network, with 22 schools. Only five of the Success schools are on Eide’s list of charters that would be pushed into deficit, based on 2012 budget data.

Turetsky said the sliding scale may be based on the ability of charters to raise private money, which would mean that all schools that rely mainly on public funding may be exempt from paying rent.

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