|Northeast Charter School Association releases 'open letter to Edu-stablishment' that says funding inequity compares to Jim Crow laws against black people.|
|Text of March 30 press release.|
An open Letter to the Edu-stablishment
Michael J. Borges
453 New Karner Road
Albany, NY 12205
Dr. Robert J. Reidy, Jr.
The Council of School Superintendents
7 Elk Street, 3rd Floor
Albany, NY 12207
New York State PTA
One Wembley Court
Albany, NY 12205
Timothy G. Kremer
24 Century Hill Drive, Suite 200
Latham, New York 12110
New York State United Teachers
800 Troy Schenectady Road
Latham, NY 12110
8 Airport Park Blvd.
Albany Airport Park
Latham, NY 12110
Dear members of the edu-stablishment,
Like many of you, I woke up this morning in my home in a leafy suburb with its great public schools, safe neighborhoods, and grassy parks for my young son to play in.
As the first person in my family to get a college degree (and later a law degree so that I could go on to work as a civil rights attorney), I worked hard to get here and I make no apologies for wanting the best for my son.
However, the young women in this photo don’t have that same privilege:
Students from Rochester Academy Charter School, where the five-year graduation rate is 97 percent.
They live in a city with one of America’s highest poverty rates and worst public school systems -- Rochester, NY. Structural racism, crime and decades of urban disinvestment mean that our society has handed these beautiful young people and thousands of others just like them dozens of obstacles to achieving the life you and I want for our children—all before they were even born.
Their parents chose to send them to a charter school, one of about a dozen in the city, to give them a pathway to a better life. They attend Rochester Academy Charter School, where despite the fact that 94 percent of students are in poverty, 86 percent are able to graduate from high school, versus a graduation rate of 46 percent at city schools.
This amazing school is literally changing lives.
Yet New York has a charter school law that says they are only worth 68 cents for every dollar that their friends and neighbors in district schools receive. Like a whites-only water fountain or lunch counter, they are categorically excluded from any state funding for school buildings—SOLELY BECAUSE THEY ATTEND A CHARTER SCHOOL.
This is unfair and unconstitutional. Every public school student deserves an adequate school facility, and charters are public schools.
But right now New York State does nothing for the three young women pictured above and tens of thousands of others in charter schools across the state.
So after waking up and counting my blessings this morning, I read your myth-laden late-night attack memo, in which you argue that these young women and the other 118,000 New York young people in charters should be kept down. You argue that they do not deserve equity because they attend a charter school.
Some inconvenient truths for you:
Charter schools’ funding request amounts to a rounding error in the billions New York will spend on public education in the new budget. Are you so piggish that you can’t see that?
You like to be loud on equity matters like family leave, minimum wage, pay equity, gender rights and other civil rights matters, yet you expend your taxpayer-funded time and resources on keeping families from exercising their right to choose a public school that works for them.
New York has many thriving charter schools serving low-income children in Rochester, Buffalo, Harlem, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Albany, Troy and elsewhere. Yet if you had your way, the only parents who could choose their public schools would be those who could afford homes in the suburbs – like the very suburbs where your luxurious headquarters have been built.
Charter schools are a part of the public education landscape. Parents want them. Voters support them by strong majorities. This is all because they provide an opportunity for young people. Yet you see them as such a threat that you’d rather kill them than accept them as a viable alternative for families who don’t feel served by the district systems you run. Why are you so afraid?
How long will you continue to peddle the utter hypocrisy of fighting for “equitable funding” for the portion of public education that you control yet oppose any funding at all for the 118,000 students in public charter schools?
How long will the teachers union sell out its own members at dozens of charter schools across the state?
How long will the school boards association oppose new mandates on their boards yet want charter school boards to be subject to even more stringent mandates?
It’s official: you own the charter-district divide that is bemoaned by everyone. This isn’t a fight that the charter school movement is driving. It’s you, not us.
Here’s an idea: before you continue to try to kill these schools, come for a visit. You may enjoy sabotaging kids in charter schools from your perches in suburban Albany office parks, but I’d like you to look our kids in the eye and tell them what your lobbying efforts would mean for them.
In the case of the young women pictured above, it would mean sending them back to a system in Rochester where test scores are abysmally low, and kids have a better chance of not graduating than leaving with a diploma.
CEO, Northeast Charter Schools Network