Last week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined a bold agenda for increasing funding for charter schools and praised them as a key component in any effort to turn around the state's — New York City's — failing schools.
"The first place you start are the charters," the governor told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
As part of his "opportunity agenda,"
Cuomo has proposed expanding the state's charter schools and adding another 100 slots to the charter cap, which under current law is limited to 460 charter schools.
He also has proposed a $100 million Education Tax Credit for public and private scholarships to promote choice in education — and pass the DREAM Act, with $27 million in this year's budget to make it a reality.
The embrace of charter schools by the state's Democrat governor has placed him at odds with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city's schools chancellor, Carmen Farina, who has overseen a dismantling of the reforms, including charter school expansion, implemented by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, The New York Times reports
In February 2014, de Blasio announced that he would not adopt the Bloomberg administration's plan to grant space to three charter schools, and when Farina was questioned as to what children who were planning to attend those schools would do, she said: "They're charter schools. They're on their own now," the paper reports, adding that she later said she had "misspoken."
Last November, Farina also echoed what is said to be a common myth among charter school opponents: That is, that they cherry-pick their students and move children around in an effort to improve performance scores.
"There shouldn't be a whole movement out of charters the month before the test and we need to make sure when you say these are the kids that are enrolled through lottery, that these are the kids who graduate. It happens in some places," said Farina, according to the New York Post
But a report released in January by the New York City Independent Budget Office
(IBO) found that, on average, students at charter schools stay at their schools at a higher rate than students at nearby traditional public schools, contrary to Farina's claims.
Specifically, the IBO reported that New York City's charter schools retain 64 percent of their students, compared with 56 percent of students retained by district schools.
The IBO report also debunked the myth that special-needs children are forced out of charter schools in an effort by officials to improve performance data.
The study examined more than 3,000 charter school students and 7,200 students at nearby traditional public schools who started kindergarten in September 2008 and followed them through third grade.
Among the kindergartners defined as having "special needs," 53 percent remained in the same charter school four years later, compared with 49 percent of children attending traditional public schools in the same community.
"When we consider any student identified as having a disability in kindergarten as a special needs student, these students remained at their charter schools through the 2012-2013 school year at a higher rate than similar students at nearby traditional public schools," said the report.
Advocates of charter schools, who held public rallies for the movement during January's National School Choice Week, say that Farina, de Blasio and opponents continue to ignore the evidence in favor of school choice.
"The [United Federation of Teachers] needs to end the falsehoods and face the facts: According to a report by Families for Excellent Schools, in New York City 143,000 children are stuck in failing schools where less than one in 10 can read or do math; 96 percent of them are minority children, and 93 percent are poor. Statewide, nearly 800,000 students in grades three to eight fail to meet grade standards," writes Eva Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed
"New York City's charter schools, by contrast, are succeeding by putting the needs of students first. Disadvantaged children are excelling with the academic supports — a longer school day, a more rigorous curriculum, extra help after school, arts enrichment — that charters provide," she wrote.
"As a result, families are voting with their feet for charters and against the union's failing education monopoly."
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