A sudden Albany push to poison charter schools

Word out of Albany is that Gov. Kathy Hochul has yet to get the Legislature’s leaders to go along with allowing 100 or so more charter schools to open in New York City, but at best around a dozen.

That’s a loss for the city’s kids — but far worse is another new wrinkle, a deadly threat to the city’s existing charters.

Rumor has it that lawmakers are pushing to rescind or water down the state law that guarantees the Department of Education provide space for charter schools, or help cover rent if nothing’s available. This is utter poison.

Charter schools are public schools, but run outside the local bureaucracy.

Their students have as much right to public space as those in the regular system.

And room shouldn’t be an issue in the city or most of the state, where standard-public-school enrollments have plummeted in recent years.

Even pre-COVID, the DOE had more than 100,000 empty seats in its school buildings.

The United Federation of Teachers and allied unions, which detest charters because they succeed where UFT-controlled schools fail, have spent more than a decade warring on charter “co-locations” — that is, a charter sharing a school building with a district school.

In a series of fear-mongering campaigns, they’ve gotten rules imposed that set the bar far higher for a charter to share than for multiple district schools to do so.

Schoolchildren rally during an event supporting public charter schools
Lawmakers are pushing to rescind or water down the state law that guarantees the Department of Education to provide space for charter schools, or help cover rent if nothing’s available
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Then-Mayor Bill de Blasio at the start of his tenure announced he’d start charging charters rent for co-location space.

It was a nakedly unjust bid to force them to close, since they already get far less per-pupil funding than district schools.

(In the city now, it’s half the cash: about $18,000 per charter kids, vs. $37,000 for district student.)

Albany responded by passing the co-location law, making it plain that charter kids deserve fair treatment when it comes to public school space.

We don’t think Mayor Eric Adams would follow de Blasio, no matter what his budget pressures.

But the next mayor might.

And even now, eliminating or watering down the guarantee would let UFT play an inside game to first frustrate charter growth (it’s already short-circuited some co-locations), and then to evict existing charters from their buildings.

If Hochul falls for even an innocuous-seeming change, she’s selling out the kids she started off trying to help.

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