The state’s charter school association today sent an open letter to Speaker Carl Heastie in response to a letter sent earlier this week by several Assembly Members, which included a number of allegations and inaccuracies about charter schools.
For Immediate Release: Friday, March 6, 2015
Contact: Jessica Mokhiber, 518-573-0516, email@example.com
Charter association sends open letter to Speaker Heastie
Letter refutes misinformation about charters in letter sent by several
Albany, NY – The state’s charter school association today sent an open letter to Speaker Carl Heastie in response to a letter sent earlier this week by several Assembly Members, which included a number of allegations and inaccuracies about charter schools.
March 6, 2015
Speaker Carl Heastie
New York State Assembly
Albany, NY 12248
Dear Speaker Heastie,
I’m writing on behalf of the Northeast Charter Schools Network (formerly the New York Charter Schools Association), the membership organization for the state’s charter schools. Recently there has been heated debate over the performance of charter schools, and the role these schools should play as we work to improve education.
This letter is meant to provide context and a response to the allegations made in a recent letter sent to you from some of your Assembly colleagues.
We respectfully take exception to the overall intent of the letter and the allegations painting the dedicated educators working in charter schools as seeking to somehow shirk the responsibility of serving all students.
First, the letter effectively “moves the goal posts” for what charter schools must do to achieve true equity. Initially, charter schools were criticized for not serving enough poor families and children with special needs. Today, the city’s charter schools serve a near-equal amount of both poor and special needs children when compared to the NYC DOE schools. This fact was never mentioned in the letter you received. The recent letter suggests that the real measure is the number of children in temporary housing and the number of children with certain types of disabilities. Clearly, this is a rigged game and charter detractors will never settle on a measure if it means that charters are succeeding. Charter schools strive to serve all students, no matter their background, and will continue that effort through robust recruitment and retention efforts and a continuing commitment to conduct blind enrollment lotteries that are open to all children.
Second, the letter ignores very real problems in the NYC DOE special education programs by tacitly suggesting that charters should mirror that system. A recent analysis by Advocates for Children notes the dysfunction facing the NYC DOE’s special education programs. The analysis specifically notes the research showing that children of color are routinely over-classified into special education and lifetime of low expectations. That is not a practice charters should emulate. Many charter schools believe in holding high academic expectations for all students, including the nearly 94% of our students who are children of color. Moreover, a recent study also shows that charter schools are effectively educating special education students so that they no longer need additional services—a great win for kids and savings to the taxpayer. There is always room to improve, but the limited information in the letter certainly appears to intentionally skew the story against charter schools.
Third, the letter ignores the realities underlying school discipline issues. Yes, it is true that strict student discipline is more common at charter schools, but that is precisely the reason why many parents choose these schools. Compared to the chaos and failure at many city schools, charters often provide an oasis of structure and a learning-friendly environment where student expectations are clear. I stress that there are almost 200 charter schools in New York City, each with their own unique approach to student discipline. Some prefer a restorative justice model in lieu of suspensions. Some take a “no excuses” approach. It’s up to parents to decide what school works best for them. That’s the hallmark of parent choice and integral to chartering.
Fourth, the letter unfairly suggests that charters are excluding ELL students. There is no evidence suggesting that charters are somehow excluding eligible students from applying. As you know, charters are required to accept all applicants and must abide by a lottery when applications exceed available seats. In fact, all charters use blind lotteries and a state-mandated application form in multiple languages, and they conduct required community outreach targeting ELL students for recruitment. Many charters provide preferences to ELL students to encourage ELL student enrollment.
Moreover, the statistical comparisons between charter schools and their entire host district mask real inequities in the NYC DOE system. For example, a recent report shows that the district often warehouses ELL students in a handful of schools, which in turn, boosts the district’s overall average. Lastly, I’ll note that our colleagues at the NYC Charter School Center have recently launched a citywide campaign to encourage enrollment of ELL students at the city’s charter schools—with multi-language bus and subway ads, palm cards, as well radio ads.
Rest assured that the state’s charter schools are committed to serving every child and providing a world-class education to families in need of better options.
Governor Cuomo has rightfully made improving public education a top priority for Albany lawmakers this year. You and your colleagues will make difficult decisions that will have a tremendous impact on children for the rest of their lives. We respectfully ask that you look beyond manipulated statistical smokescreens and half-truths and understand the whole truth—namely that, by any measure, charter schools are a lifeline for children that our society has otherwise written off.
Thank you for your consideration and if you have any additional questions about New York’s charter schools we always are available to assist you.
Assembly Member Mosley
Assembly Member Robinson
Assembly Member Wright
Assembly Member Barron
Assembly Member Abinati
Assembly Member Benedetto
Assembly Member Brindisi
Assembly Member Brook-Krasny
Assembly Member Cook
Assembly Member Davila
Assembly Member Gottfried
Assembly Member Jaffee
Assembly Member Kim
Assembly Member Miller
Assembly Member Moya
Assembly Member Perry
Assembly Member Persaud
Assembly Member Pretlow
Assembly Member Ramos
Assembly Member Scarborough
Assembly Member Skoufis
Assembly Member Titus
Assembly Member Weprin
Assembly Member Pichardo
 Advocates for Children of New York, July 2014. More information available here:
 Marcus A. Winters, Why the Gap? Special Education and New York City Charter Schools (Seattle, WA: Center on Reinventing Public Education, September 2013).
 Familes for Excellent Schools. The Neglect of NYC’s English Language Learner and Special Needs Students, January, 2015. More information here: http://39sf0512acpc3iz0941zlzn5.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Report-Neglect-of-NYCs-ELLSpecial-Needs-Students.pdf
 NYC Charter School Center, Public Awareness Campaign for ELLs. More information available here: http://www.nyccharterschools.org/content/public-awareness-campaign-ells
About the Northeast Charter Schools Network: The Northeast Charter Schools Network is a regional advocacy organization for the more than 250 charter schools in New York and Connecticut. Its mission is to support and expand high quality charter schools in the region.
915 Broadway, Suite 110, Albany NY, 12207
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