Albany’s reluctance to raise the charter cap is based on fiction

The New York legislature is unimpressed desperate wish of city families To have access to more quality charter schools. The reluctance of the legislature to repeal the unscrupulous cap on establishing charter schools — and indeed the existence of the cap — is based on ideas that are simply not true: that charters hurt the city’s county-run public schools and drain funds from the students at those schools.

Let’s review the facts, all of which are publicly available from the city Independent Budget Office. Between 2006-07 and 2020-21, enrollment at the city’s charter schools increased by 123,000 students, or almost 800%. During the same period, spending per student at the Department of Education increased by more than $12,000, or 71%. Even adjusting for inflation, the increase in spending was more than $4,800, nearly 20%.

Yes, it’s true that $2.7 billion is going through the Department of Education’s budget to charters, which uses it to educate more than 136,000 students. But charter schools aren’t the only ones receiving money from the DOE’s budget.

This year, the department is paying more than $3 billion to private and nonprofit schools to educate students with special needs and provide pre-kindergarten for the city’s youngest students.

No one has asked for a cap on this spending; neither should they. City and country recognize that the best services and expertise can sometimes be found outside of the traditional school system, and are willing to pay for it. Somehow that recognition doesn’t extend to charter schools that spend less per student but get better results.

The New York Legislature refuses to remove the cap on charter schools.
The New York Legislature refuses to remove the cap on charter schools.
Photo by Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images

Enrollments in DOE schools have declined, but the timing shows the decline has nothing to do with charter school expansion. From 2007 to 2017, charter enrollments increased by more than 89,000 students, but enrollments in district-run schools only fell by 6,000. Since then, DOE schools have bottomed out, falling by more than 80,000 students while charters have risen by over 33,000.

COVID closures have also played a role in the decline in county schools, as has that declining birth rate in the city. But as City Chancellor David Banks noted, “families are voting with their feet,” and fewer of them have seen what they want in DOE’s schools.

The facts about the charter school student body and its performance are well known, but are worth repeating. More than half of the students in the city’s charter schools are black and more than 40% are Hispanic. A quarter of all black students in the city are enrolled in charter schools, and another 8% attend private and religious schools.

The families of these students have avoided the district schools for good reason. Even before the onset of the COVID disruptions, the performance record for black students in DOE schools was sobering; 30.1% achieved level 1, the lowest level in the state test of English language skills, and 41.7% achieved this level in mathematics. Overall, only 36.8% of DOE black students achieved a 3 or 4 in ELA and 29.5% in math.

School Chancellor David Banks said parents are “voting with their feet" and not to send their children to public schools in New York City.
School Chancellor David Banks said parents “vote with their feet” and do not send their children to New York City public schools.
Matthew McDermott

In charter schools, 58.1% of Black students achieved Level 3 or 4, which was rated “proficient” in ELA, and 63.9% did so in math. Most notably, DOE schools tested more than three times as many Black men as charter schools, yet the charter sector saw more Black men at the highest level, 4, of the test in math than DOE schools. A full 30% of all black men in charter schools got a 4 on the math test, while only 8% of black men in the district schools did.

After all, it is known that the city’s largest charter network, success academywas able to outperform the wealthiest suburban counties in the state on the exams. Success shares its curriculum freely on his website. The district schools should learn from this. A few other charter networks in the city, notably the Classical Charter Schools in the South Bronx, have done so, and their performance is beginning to rival Success’s.

The ball is in the hands of the legislature. It may drop its misinformed cap on city charter schools or watch as families continue to leave the city in search of viable educational opportunities for their children. Additional charter schools will complement and enhance the work of the many good district schools in the city, but will not harm them. It’s time lawmakers spoke up for the city’s children and families.

Ray Domanico is Senior Fellow and Director of Education Policy at the Manhattan Institute.

https://nypost.com/2022/04/11/albanys-reluctance-to-lift-the-charter-cap-is-based-on-fiction/ Albany’s reluctance to raise the charter cap is based on fiction


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