How to educate our children is an incredibly complex and controversial issue. One of the few things that almost everyone agrees on is that the more choice parents have, the more likely there will be a better educational outcome for their child.
In the more affluent neighborhoods of Manhattan, there are numerous very good schools, both public and private. Unlike some suburban areas and rural parts of America, where the local public school is the only choice, in Manhattan parents get to research and choose from a wide variety of educational settings to match the needs of their child.
That is why we support lifting the cap on charter schools in New York State, even though there is no conclusive evidence yet that charter schools nationally are better or worse than public schools. In New York, however, the evidence is compelling that charter schools
What charter schools in New York have done in recent years is given many parents new options, particularly in poor neighborhoods in upper Manhattan and Brooklyn, and that is a good thing.
Yes, we agree with the United Federation of Teachers and a recently introduced State Senate bill that charter schools need to cater more to English Language Learners and special education students, a group that has traditionally been served poorly by public education. And strong oversight should continue to be a hallmark of charters in this state.
That said, it is urgent that the State Assembly, led by Speaker Sheldon Silver, join with their Senate colleagues in passing a bill that lifts the cap statewide and allows New York to compete for much needed “Race to the Top” funding for our school system.
Never before has there been such unanimity on both the federal and city level for charter schools. The Obama administration, along with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein, are big charter fans, and that will be a major factor in ensuring that those charter schools that currently exist—and those that will be created once the cap is lifted—will succeed.
New York’s charter schools, by and large, are more successful than those nationally for a variety of reasons. There is much philanthropic money from Wall Street flowing to many of them, and there are better school leaders starting and executing these new schools. One shining example is former East Side Council Member Eva Moskowitz’s Harlem Success network of schools, which each year attracts thousands of eager parents to its lottery and was recently the subject of a documentary film that debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival.
The results on statewide reading and math tests at Moskowitz’s schools are stellar, and this is true of many charter schools in the city.
We don’t believe that charter schools are a panacea for public education, and we often wish that more philanthropic money went directly to our public school system. But it is hard to argue that, at least in places like Harlem, charters are offering hope right now for many deserving children and their parents.
Lifting the cap now will allow New York to compete for hundreds of millions in federal money that, in this tough economy, our state sorely needs.
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