Charter Schools Rebuff de Blasio’s Shift in Tone

March 25, 2014 10:51 am Last Updated: March 25, 2014 10:56 am

NEW YORK—Some charter school representatives are not convinced by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recent conciliatory shift. Instead, they continue to look to Albany for free school space and more money.

The mayor gave an education policy speech Sunday at Riverside Church in West Harlem, and elaborated Monday on “The Brian Lehrer Show.” He spoke about finding common ground with charter schools, a change from talk about restricting them during his campaign and the first months of his administration.

Taking the focus off charter schools specifically, and talking about education in general, de Blasio told Lehrer: “I’m trying to take us back to the notion that there’s actually a common vision for serving every child, every neighborhood.”

Response from the charter school movement Monday was lukewarm at best.

“We’ve had six months of fairly hostile commentary, so I don’t think anybody’s just going to believe a couple days of changed rhetoric,” said Bill Phillips, president of the Northeast Charter Schools Network, a support organization for charter schools in New York and Connecticut.

The Success Academy, the biggest operator in the city with 22 charter schools, responded with “no comment” Monday.

Charter schools, which are governed by state law, go to the city only when applying for a co-location, which is sharing space in public school buildings.

De Blasio said during his campaign he would charge rent to charter schools that can afford it. He also said he would stop the co-locations until a “respectful and mindful” process of how to do them is devised.

“Once we get the co-location process right, there’s going to be an opportunity for charters to continue to have new chances to grow,” de Blasio said Monday.

Future of Co-locating

Phillips said charter operators are afraid of whether the new co-location policy will treat them fairly. “That’s why we’re looking for help from Albany,” he said.

His network supports a state Senate budget resolution that demands school districts provide rent-free public school space to charter schools. Another option the resolution offers is state funding to pay for charter school rentals.

State Assembly Majority Leader Sheldon Silver has criticized the Senate budget resolution, questioning why charter schools should have space guaranteed while 8,000 New York City students have their classes in portable trailers.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will have the last word when he considers the budget, due on April 1.