by Joe Shahen
On February 5th, more than 1,200 students, parents, teachers, and other public charter school supporters from 111 schools across New York State gathered in Albany for Charter School Advocacy Day 2013. Under the banner of “Many Stories, One Vision,” they shared stories of children success and met with lawmakers to support the Governor’s funding proposal for charters, and ask for the chance to compete for pre-kindergarten grants.
The morning began with speeches from teachers, parents and even some elected officials. Charter Parent Action Network Director Valerie Babb set the tone for the morning by enforcing the point that charter schools are, “great public schools.” State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. then took the podium to proclaim that charter schools are “the best public schools.” After the speakers, the crowd was treated to a variety of student performances, including music by the KIPP Always Mentally Prepared Charter School Jazz Ensemble and a performance by the Kings and Queens drill team from Albany Community Charter School.
Later supporters met with representatives to talk about the innovative and exciting learning environments offered at their schools. They also spoke about the desire to provide high-quality prekindergarten programs.
“I want to make sure people know [about] funding, and how charter schools are more unique than regular public schools,” said 8th grader Matthew Dukar from Tapestry Charter School in Buffalo.
Fair funding for public charter schools was a major theme throughout the day and one of the most important issues addressed. With the budget tight all across New York, Governor Cuomo’s proposal to keep charter funding steady for another year is seen as fair by many in the public charter school community, though down the line charter schools will need more financial support. This legislative session, students and parents would like to see public charter schools able to compete for the competitive pre-kindergarten funds proposed by Governor Cuomo’s Education Commission, something they are currently excluded from doing.