Julio Vazquez, Founder and Board President of Eugenio Maria de Hostos Charter School, talks about the need for providing charter schools facilities assistance in this Democrat & Chronicle op-ed.
Eugenio Maria de Hostos Charter School (EMHCS) opened its doors in Rochester 15 years ago thanks to dedicated local educators and community members who helped me turn my vision into a reality.
Our school is named for an influential Puerto Rican educator, lawyer and school reformer who worked in Latin America in the 1800s. He was our inspiration in creating what is now the hallmark of EMHCS — our status as a high-performing bilingual school. Students in all grades — K through 8 — learn in both English and Spanish.
Our model and its emphasis on academic excellence are paying off. On the most recent math and English language arts state tests, EMHCS surpassed the district by double-digit margins. We are proving that it doesn’t matter where a child lives or where he or she comes from — when afforded a great education, all children can succeed.
But despite our students’ achievements, they are still denied their fair share. Last year, a state law was passed allowing some charter schools in New York City access to facilities now occupied by existing public schools. This was a tremendous development for those schools in New York City.
But this law left half the state’s charter schools out in the cold. We don’t receive state facilities aid. The Rochester School District has not been open to co-location.
Recently, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle suggested co-location could be a possibility in Rochester. Rochester School District Superintendent Bolgen Vargas also said it’s an idea worth considering. We welcome with open arms the chance to receive help with space.
Here’s why: EMHCS faces serious facilities challenges. Due to our popularity, we do not have room for all our students in one building and must educate them in two buildings one and a half miles apart.
Our children cannot celebrate school events together. We must stagger dismissal times, which is hard on parents who have students in both buildings. And think about it — because we don’t receive facilities funding, we’re paying for two buildings and all of the costs associated with running them.
That’s money diverted from the classroom to pay real estate costs. Schools like ours — charters in private space — are the only public schools in New York state that must pay their own facilities costs with no help from Albany.
No other schools must choose either professional development or plumbing, either reading and writing or roofing, either music or masonry.
But that’s where we are.
We have become a successful school despite major funding gaps and no facilities relief. Can you imagine what we could do if we were fairly funded? Our children deserve equal treatment.
Last year, inroads were made. This year, let’s finish the job for all of our state’s charter school children.
Julio Vazquez is founder and board president of Eugenio Maria de Hostos Charter School.
This piece originally appeared on the Democrat & Chronicle.
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