NEW YORK—Thousands of parents, teachers, and children marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall on Oct. 8 in support of charter schools.
The march was organized by the Coalition for Education Equality. Its main goal was to reverse the position of the New York City mayoral front-runner Bill de Blasio on charging charter schools rent if they are located in a public school building. If elected, de Blasio said he would require charter schools, which have ample funding to pay rent if they are co-located in public school buildings.
Although de Blasio stated, “Those that are less resourced should not have to pay rent,” in a WNYC report, a lot of parents seemed genuinely concerned that their schools may close if required to pay rent.
“I don’t think charter schools will be able to afford it, which will lead to lots of schools, possibly all of them, to close,” said Fanny Clements, who has two boys attending the Success Academy in Harlem.
Clements said her school did not talk with parents about what would happen if the school was required to pay rent, but she would appreciate such a discussion.
“We had a parent meeting with Eva Moskowitz, the founder of Success Academy, and, you know, it was basically to rally the parents to come on and support this,” Clements said. “What happens if they start charging rent was not part of discussion.”
It seemed teachers were a little further in the loop.
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“We have discussions at our school a lot about what would happen,” said Sofie B. a young first year teacher at a charter school, which she declined to identify, together with her last name. Some other girls walking in a huddle with Sofie had backpacks from Success Academy.
“I’m extremely worried. I’m afraid that if we lose our funding, we would’’t be able to continue the amazing opportunities that we give our scholars,” Sofie said.
When asked to be photographed, she hesitated, “Can I ask my boss?” The boss didn’t allow and refused to be interviewed himself.
Charter School Funding
All charter-school operators in New York City are required to be nonprofit. They receive state and local funding through the Department of Education (DOE) and can raise money from private sources. Charter schools do not receive funding from the city, state, or federal governments for school buildings or facilities.
Two years ago, the New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO) reported that charter schools co-located in public school buildings received 4 percent more in public funding per student than their conventional counterparts. The city’s DOE later stated that the IBO used erroneous methodology, and that according to DOE figures co-located charters actually receive 1 percent less in public funding.
Last year Eva Moskowitz asked the DOE for a 5 percent increase in public funding for her Success Academy charter schools and succeeded. She cited an “unsustainable” shortfall reaching $4.7 million in 2012. Yet the Success Academy finished 2012 with a combined operating surplus of more than 23 million, according to a Daily News report.
Success Academy operates 24 out of New York City’s 183 charter schools.