Democratic legislators blast Gov. Kathy Hochul’s charter school proposal at hearing

ALBANY — Democratic state lawmakers, many of whom rely on support from the anti-charter school teachers’ unions, on Wednesday lashed into Gov. Kathy Hochul’s plan to allow more of the privately-run but publicly funded schools in New York City.

“This is another way of dismantling our public school system even though charter schools are considered public schools. This is a direct dismantling, and this will create more disparities and more segregation,” Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte-Hermlyn said at a legislative budget hearing in Albany.

“This is bad. I think this is very alarming. very alarming,” she insisted.

The governor is proposing to create more space for New York City by removing the regional limits within the overall state cap of 460 charter schools while allowing approximately 100 more of them to open in upcoming years.The current regional provision limits New York City to 275 charter permits within the five boroughs.

State Sen. Robert Jackson (D-Manhattan) suggested Hochul’s budget proposal would have a “devastating impact” on other public schools while opening the way for even more charters to effectively open under an existing rule that allows charters teaching elementary kids to expand their grades as students age.

Charter supporters have praised Hochul for making good on a campaign promise to change the cap while noting how charters give New York City parents — especially in low-income neighborhoods — additional options to low-performing traditional schools or paying for hefty private tuition costs.

Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte-Hermlyn says expanding charters would take resources away from other public schools while exacerbating segregation.
Gregory P. Mango

“Charter schools deliver for students. Students in public charter schools regularly exceed the statewide averages in reading, writing and math proficiency rates, according to the school report card data available on the New York State Education Department website,” Yomika Bennett, executive director of the New York Charter Schools Association, said in her testimony.

Parents of black students appear particularly eager to attend charter schools compared to their traditional counterparts, with a City Journal analysis finding that 29% of charter students are black.

Assemblyman Sam Pirozzolo (R-Staten Island) expressed amazement at the hearing considering how the UFT appeared to be calling the shots when it comes to mobilizing colleagues across the aisle to oppose charter school changes proposed by a Democratic governor.

Betty Rosa leaning on some fingers while sitting at a table with lots of blurry people in background.
State Education Commissioner Betty Rosa questioned at a legislative budget hearing why there are not more charter schools in white communities.

“You have to be kidding me,” Pirozzolo said. “The United Federation of Teachers does not and should not have a lock on education in New York City.”

New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks sought to strike a balance at the hearing between supporting the charters he oversees while avoiding the wrath of United Federation of Teachers-influenced Democratic state lawmakers who have big sway on the bottom line for city schools.

“Whether or not you increase the cap or lift the cap is not my decision,” he said.

Front of a building hosting the New Dawn charter high school with an empty sidewalk
Supporters of charter schools say they give families a choice when it comes to avoiding underperforming public schools.

“I don’t see this as an ‘us and them’ for my purposes, but I do recognize the challenge that we do have, particularly as relates to colocation of schools,” he added about the approximately $200 million cost of placing 146 charters in the same buildings as other public schools or assisting in the cost of finding their own space.

Charters received about $3 billion out of the roughly $31 billion city education budget this year, according to the city DOE.

But unions like the UFT and its statewide counterpart New York State United Teachers oppose any expansion of charters, which do not employ their members.

Kathy Hochul
Gov. Kathy Hochul honored a campaign pledge to lift the cap on charter schools in New York City.
Matthew McDermott

“While well intended, charter schools share very little with regard to best practices and have become a financial burden on school districts,” NYSUT President Andrew Pallotta told lawmakers.

State Education Department Commissioner Betty Rosa also joined in bashing charters, which are disproportionately located in minority neighborhoods where traditional schools have historically underperformed.

“If it’s such a wonderful experiment. Let me see it in places that embrace it other than communities of color,” Rosa said.

Charter supporters pushed back at the hearing where union-friendly talking points appeared to have great sway with Democratic lawmakers, many of whom have received financial backing from teachers’ unions in the past.

“Today’s education budget hearing was heartbreaking. It’s hard to understand why state lawmakers want to deny parents the right to choose the best school for their child, especially when 64% of New York City parents say they want to raise the cap on public charter schools,” Jacquelyn Martell, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform New York, said in her testimony.

Meanwhile Miriam Raccah, CEO of the Black, Latinx, Asian Charter Collaborative that’s advocating for legislation to create more minority-run charter schools, complained that lawmakers did not permit her to testify at the budget hearing.

“We’re surprised and disappointed. We want to talk about equity.. We want to be at the table,” said Raccah, a co-founder of Girls Prep charter school.

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Kathy Lewis

Kathy Lewis is an all-around geek who loves learning new stuff every day. With a background in computer science and a passion for writing, she loves writing for almost all the sections of Editorials99.

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