(The only other comparable pro-charter school gathering of this magnitude occurred in Albany's Washington Park in September 2005 when thousands of Albany parents gathered for a barbecue in support of their charter schools.)
Gov. Paterson Addresses Charter Gathering
Governor Paterson addressed the gathering at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center, which was filled and required seating in an overflow room. I've never seen anything like it. He stated that he wants to try again and raise the charter cap, especially if the state does not get a federal Race to the Top grant; necessitating a second application submission in June.
Afterward at a press conference just outside the convention hall, the Governor said he would look into the charter funding freeze he is proposing to maintain next year for charter schools, which is a punitive measure that in effect cuts charter funding twice since they also will bear the brunt of any lower school district spending in subsequent years.
This double-cut in charter funding was foremost on the minds of the 3,000 charter school attendees, which was nearly five times the number from last year's record-setting Advocacy Day attendance. Valerie Babb, head of the Charter Parent Advocacy Network, discusses this double cut in charter funding in today's Daily News (here). Ms. Babb also did a superb job as master of ceremonies for Advocacy Day in the convention hall.
Several other legislators came to address the crowd, including Assemblyman Sam Hoyt (Buffalo); Assem. Michael Benjamin (Bronx); Sen. Martin Golden (Brooklyn); Sen. Craig Johnson (Nassau Co.); and others. Even Sen. Bill Perkins from upper Manhattan came to talk, but was not well-received.
Sen. Perkins continues his opposition to charters by claiming "over saturation" in Harlem and elsewhere. I doubt Sen. Perkins can claim the district schools in these areas are all brimming with success, yet he clings to this saturation argument nonetheless. Harlem students and parents from his 30th Senate district marched on the Capitol grounds chanting and holding signs. It was a sight to behold.
Charter Parents Getting Aggressive About Mistreatment of Their Schools
Charter parents are not appreciating this disparate funding and they are speaking up more than ever to their legislators. Throughout the day, they delivered the message against the double-cut in charter funding, demanding their legislators un-thaw these funding freeze. Parents were respectful, but more aggressive than in years past about their demands. They don't want to be treated as second-class, which is what the charter funding and union opposition has done to their schools. In fact, many meetings with legislators had to occur in the convention hall or in an adjacent meeting room since legislators' offices were too small to accommodate everyone from their district.
All in all, Charter Advocacy Day was a huge success. Many thanks and congratulations to the New York Charter Schools Association and the New York City Charter School Center for pulling this together; and most of all to the parents and school leaders for making the trip and delivering the message. This momentum must continue.
for The Chalkboard
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