NECSN CEO Kyle Rosenkrans urges lawmakers in Albany to finally fund charter school kids equitably in this Times Union op-ed.
In his State of the State address this month, Governor Cuomo spoke of uniting the state as “One New York.” He was right to include charter schools in that vision, recognizing their development as an important piece in creating more good public schools across the state.
But if the goal is to bring the state together, it is time for lawmakers to see that children from New York City to Albany and to Buffalo who attend these public schools can no longer be treated as second-class citizens.
Charter school students across the state have been treated inequitably for far too long simply because their parents wanted something better for them. Here in Albany, charter schools are serving higher percentages of economically disadvantaged and black and Hispanic kids, and on average out-perform the Albany district. Charter high schools in Albany are graduating their kids at a higher rate than the district. And Albany Community Charter School is a nationally recognized Blue Ribbon school.
The “reward” for that success: charter children are funded at about 75 cents on the dollar compared with district kids.
It’s the same tune around the state. Charters provide quality options in bad districts, but get short changed. It happens in Buffalo, where charters routinely out-perform the district but the children receive only three-fifths of the funding district students receive.
It happens in Rochester, where the district has failed thousands of students for years. Again, charters are doing great work, but the kids only get 68 cents on the dollar compared with district students.
To boot, every charter outside of New York City, and even some in the city, receive no public facilities funding. This means these public schools have to use their already scarce dollars from children and their classrooms, just to have four walls and a roof. It makes no sense and it simply isn’t fair.
It is time for all public school children to be treated fairly, no matter what type of school their families choose. That’s why we supported five charter school families who filed the landmark charter funding lawsuit Brown v. New York. Charter school students are public school students. That’s an inarguable fact as stated in law. Charters are open to all kids, but the kids who enroll have to face a reality of inequality and staunch opposition to their educational future.
And that’s why it is so important that these families and educators come to Albany and meet with their legislators. But it’s vitally important for lawmakers to do more than just meet with families. They have an opportunity this year to provide solutions and real change.
Governor Cuomo set the table by calling for unity around the state and showing support for charter schools. It is time for our legislators to take the critical next step to show these students they are not worth less than other children just because they attend a different type of public school.
On February 2, more than 1,000 students, staff, parents and supporters will be in Albany for the 12th annual Charter School Advocacy Day to urge lawmakers to finally fund them equitably.
Lawmakers know the “lobby day” drill. They welcome local constituents to their offices, chat nicely for a little while, pledge to do their best and then move on to the next meeting.
That can’t be enough anymore. Children need them to be serious about ending this inequity.
All children matter, and their education matters. The fix for this inequality has to come from Albany, and this is the year to solve these problems once and for all.
Kyle Rosenkrans is CEO of the Northeast Charter Schools Network.
This op-ed originally ran on the Times Union.