New York City parents and charter school advocates are angry over Mayor Bill de Blasio's plan to divert $210 million from charter schools over to his plan to extend pre-kindergarten classes to some 70,000 of the city's youngest school children.
Capital-budget allocations for charters in years past have served as seed money to attract grants to build new schools, reports The New York Post.
During former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration, the money helped build eight to 10 new buildings every four years.
“It’s a reflection of the city’s new priorities to shift resources from charter expansion to traditional public schools,” de Blasio spokesperson Marti Adams told The New York Daily News.
On Friday, Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina announced the money would be diverted, an action that advocates are calling a war on the city's charter schools and the city's "99 percent."
"This is an attack on the 99 percent. It’s wrong," Eva Moskowitz, CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools and a former City Council member, told The Post. She said the decision "does not bode well for kids," and the city needs to "replicate what's working, not attack what's working."
New York's public charter schools are growing rapidly as parents pull their children out of poorly performing traditional schools, and depend on the allocations to keep growing. Moskowitz is in charge of 22 schools across the city and Success Academy hopes to open more buildings in the future.
De Blasio's campaign promise to extend preschool classes is at odds with Gov. Andrew Cuomo's plan to bring all-day school to pre-K students around the state.
Last month, according to the New York Times, the governor offered "a blank check" from state funds to pay for the pre-K schooling as part of his statewide program to boost education.
But de Blasio fears the funding would be subject to the yearly budget whims of politicians in Albany and plans to push ahead with his campaign promise to pay for pre-K expansion through a small tax on the city's most wealthy.
De Blasio last month turned down an initial offer from Cuomo of $1.5 billion over five years because city officials estimated the cost would likely be higher and, according to the New York Daily News, because he wanted to deliver on his campaign promise to raise taxes on the rich
to help pay for education.
Mery Melendez, whose daughter attends KIPP Star Washington Heights Elementary School, accused the de Blasio administration of "playing with our kids."
"Charter or non-charter, they're all our kids," she told The Post. "They're the chancellor’s kids and New York City’s kids and they need help for all of them."
And Natasha Munoz, whose child also attend the KIPP school, said the issue is "turning into a war between parents."
Charter advocates say it's not likely that the money will be returned to the capital budget, and want to see if the mayor will give charter schools a role in his plans to expand pre-kindergarten classes.
"Charter leaders and charter teachers and charter parents are incredibly eager and willing to work with this mayor to make his pre-K program the resounding success it needs to be,” said James Merriman of the New York City Charter School Center. "If he is not willing to support charters’ participation in pre-K, then I think you have to conclude that unfortunately something is going on here that is very much about ideology and not about making the pre-K program work."
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