NECSN CEO Kyle Rosenkrans urges Albany to fix the state's unfair denial of public funds for charter school buildings in this Times Union op-ed.
With all the talk about education funding this year, it's vital that Albany lawmakers not overlook one of the biggest inequities in the way we fund public schools: the outright denial of public funds for charter school buildings.
True, last year's law allowed some charter schools in New York City either free district space or help in paying the rent. This was a godsend for many, especially since charter school students are already funded, on average, at only 75 cents on the dollar compared to students in traditional district schools.
But this law didn't go all the way, because it only applied to new or growing schools and in the process left out about 127 schools across the state. This includes about 40 percent of the schools in New York City and all the schools outside the city. In total, 50,000 public school children are potentially affected by this omission in the law, including all of the students who attend the Capital Region's public charter schools.
That means roughly half the schools in the state are stuck in a huge doughnut hole in the law, and still have to spend dollars meant for the classroom on rent and all the costs associated with running a building.
They're the only public schools in the state treated this way. We spend nearly $3 billion each year on public school buildings, yet charter students are categorically denied access to that funding for no good reason other than politics.
What started as an experiment in education has proven successful, with charter schools posting good results and the ineffective ones being closed.
Perhaps most important, however, charter schools are providing an option for families who otherwise would not have a choice in where to send their children to school. Bronx Charter School for Excellence is a Blue Ribbon school in one of the city's poorest neighborhoods, but won't receive fair facilities funding. Syracuse Academy of Science Charter School is preparing its students for the 21st century workplace with a STEM (science, technology, engineering math) education, but won't receive fair facilities funding. And right here in Albany, KIPP Tech Valley is doing such a great job that they were approved to grow to serve more families — but KIPP Tech Valley will not have facilities funding, for no reason other than being located outside of New York City.
These schools can't keep up their work over the long-term if we don't fix the law. It's time we stop treating charter students as second-class citizens.
That's why we supported a group of five families from charter schools in Western New York who are challenging this inequity in state court on constitutional and civil rights grounds. Our law cannot condone this level of unfairness — equal educational opportunity is a bedrock principle for New Yorkers.
Mind you, charter students aren't asking for anything more than what other public school students receive. They aren't asking for special treatment. They are asking to be treated fairly under the law and have access to the same funding as other public school students. Nothing more, nothing less.
This is the year that our state lawmakers can do the right thing by the tens of thousands of charter kids who are treated as though they're worth less. Let's get it done.
Kyle Rosenkrans is CEO of Northeast Charter Schools Network.
This piece originally appeared on the Times Union.
Do you like this post?