By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
On the night before a planned protest march by parents to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s midtown Manhattan office, members of a Bay Ridge education panel went on record in opposition to the new state budget, charging that the state has a bias in favor of charter schools.
The Community Education Council (CEC) of School District 20 voted unanimously on April 9 to oppose the education provisions in the state budget. CEC members said the state is increasing funding to charter schools at the expense of traditional public schools.
“The funding formula isn’t fair. It just isn’t,” CEC 20 President Laurie Windsor told the Brooklyn Eagle.
“Charter Schools in New York City have been shown by the city’s Independent Budget Office to receive more public funding per pupil than public schools,” the resolution reads in part.
CEC 20 represents schools in Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst.
But funding isn’t the only thing upsetting the CEC. Members said they object to the state’s policy of requiring the New York City Department of Education to provide space inside traditional public schools for charter schools at no cost. In addition, the city must pay rent for a charter school if the charter school has to be located in a privately owned building.
“Charter Schools in New York City receive backing from wealthy investors who benefit from federal tax credits valued at millions of dollars under the Federal New Markets program. Charter Schools have resources and the means to find their own facilities outside of the Department of Education’s building inventory,” the CEC resolution reads.
Charter schools are public schools but operate differently than their tradition public school counterparts. The charters receive much of their funding privately, through corporations and other sources. A charter school administrator is granted a charter from the state to operate a school for a set period of time, usually five years, at which time the charter is reviewed to determine if it should be renewed. Certain measurable goals, including graduation rates and student achievements, are usually written into the charter and must be met for the charter to be renewed.
The whole public vs. charter schools mess is threatening to undermine the mayor’s control of the city’s public school system, according to CEC members. In 2002, the State Legislature changed the state’s education law to abolish the Board of Education allow New York’s mayor (Michael Bloomberg at the time) to control the public school system. In 2009, the State Legislature renewed the law, The New York Times reported
In its resolution, the CEC called on Cuomo to allow the mayor to oversee the usage of public school space in accordance with the state education law of mayoral control.
The state budget was enacted on April 1.
The CEC 20 vote took place in anticipation of Thursday's protest march organized by CEC/Citywide Working Group, a coalition of CECs from across the city, against the state budget.
The protesters were scheduled to convene on the steps of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue and 41st Street at 4 p.m. and then march up 40th Street to 633 Third Avenue (40th Street) to Cuomo’s office.
Leaders of the community education councils (CEC) of school districts 20 and 21 (Coney Island-Gravesend) emailed notices and distributed fliers to parents urging them to join the after-school protest march and to bring their children along.
CEC 20 an CEC 21 have worked together during the past several months to hold protest rallies against plans by the city to allow charter schools to share space in Seth Low Intermediate School and Joseph Cavallaro Intermediate School, both in Bensonhurst.
The charter school sharing plan, known as a co-location, will result in both Seth Low and Cavallaro becoming overcrowded, parents charged.
Approximately 94 percent of the city’s public school youngsters attend traditional public schools. Charter schools account for six percent of the city’s public school population. “You’re talking about inconveniencing a vast majority of the city’s school children in favor of a very small minority,” Windsor told the Eagle.