Tuesday, February 12, 2019

NY: Parents Call For Charter Pause and Evaluation

NYC school district's parent board has come out in opposition to raising New York's charter school cap. Will Governor Cuomo hear them?

The New York City schools are under mayoral control (never, ever, an ideal system), so they have no school boards. What they do have is thirty-six Community Education Councils composed of elected parents. Those CECs in turn have an Education Council Consortium, composed of representatives from each of the CECs. Their stated purpose is "to address issues that affect schools and communities throughout all the boroughs and meets regularly with the Chancellor to help shape, advise, provide feedback and comment on educational policies, visions and goals."

Time to check his hearing.
The CECs are more like a community school board than, say, a PTA, and they have been known to get feisty and vocal. Last fall they wrote to the state legislature to ask the mayoral power over NYC schools be "reined in."

Now the ECC has issued a unanimous statement about both the charter cap and the subcap (the cap for the state and for the city, respectively). The resolution, passed last Saturday (Feb 9) is heavy on the whereas, but it has some strong points to make:

The resolution characterizes charters in New York  as a "charter experiment" or the "unproven experiment" and describes New York City as "oversaturated" with charter schools (NYC has 39% of the state's students, but 71% of the state's charter schools). Noting that the city also has plenty of private and public options, the resolution asserts that NYC "is demonstrably not a region with a lack of alternatives as originally contemplated" in the original charter law. Meanwhile, other parts of the state have few or zero charters. If choice is so important, the resolution suggests, why aren't charter fans working on areas that have few options instead of focusing on the hot market in the city.

Charters take "substantial"resources from public schools, to the tune of $44 million in NYC (in part because NYC charters are allowed to commandeer public school buildings for free).

Charter schools lack sufficient oversight and accountability by design. Increasing the number of charters operated by CMOs would "further weaken public accountability by placing even more public funds and space resources under private CMO management" basically acting as "parallel independent school districts that operate free from public oversight"

The ECC also takes on the issue of audits. "The substantial use of public resources by Charter schools combined with a lack of oversight merits regular financial audits of all Charter schools and their CMOs through the state or city comptroller with enforced recommendations." According to law (§2854(1)(c), the charters are sub sect to audit by the state or city comptroller. The ECC is only aware of four audits actually occurring, and of course we know that some charters have fought hard against being audited. ECC notes that after the 2016 audit of Success Academy, the charter simply ignored the recommendations of the auditor.

Meanwhile, there has been no full-scale examination of what effect charts have had on the NYC system, no look at the fiscal impact of collocation, no look at the academic impact across the city, no look at the social impact on factors like diversity, no look at how waitlists actually work, no look at recruitment and retention practices.

It's a lot of whereasing, a lot of issues that the ECC would like to see addressed. But finally we arrive at the conclusion:

The Education Council Consortium, therefore,

RESOLVES, to propose a five-year moratorium on issuing new Charters in New York City and complete a system-wide impact evaluation by an outside evaluator.

Via email, Antonia Ferraro of CEC15 said yesterday:

We understand that the NYC Charter Center as well as other Charter school lobbyists and advocates are descending on Albany tomorrow [Tuesday, Feb 12]. We have been told the Governor may slip a Charter Subcap increase into the budget without consulting the public. This can’t happen. Frankly, a Charter Cap/NYC Subcap increase should be a ballot measure, not a backroom deal.

It should be noted that the parents are not pushing for a rollback of charters or an end to to charter schools in NYC,  but are asking to hit pause and evaluate, to take a few years to figure out exactly what charter schools are doing to the NYC educational landscape. Will charter-loving Governor Andrew Cuomo or the charter-friendly legislature in Albany listen to them? Well, if all their rhetoric about how choice is needed so that parent voices can be heard and n to just ignored by the system-- if all that rhetoric isn't just political banana oil, then certainly they'd stop to take seriously the resolution passed by the elected representatives of all the school parents of NYC.

We'll see if they really want to listen to parents, or if parent voices only matter when they are pro-charter.

1 comment:

  1. "Meanwhile, there has been no full-scale examination of what effect charters have had on the NYC system, . . ."

    Charters in NYC have almost exclusively targeted low income minority students. Charters are self-selecting schools that not only strip public schools of much needed funds, but more importantly they cull the children of the most engaged and supportive parents from impoverished neighborhood schools. By increasing the density of students from the least structured homes, the public schools are left with high percentages of extraordinarily challenging students to educate. Exacerbating the chaos of troubled inner city schools is nothing that public [policy should be promoting.