No More Charter Schools in New York State

With a straight face, many millionaires, some media outlets, and Governor Andrew Cuomo are once again righteously demanding an increase in the number of privately-run but publicly-funded charter schools permitted in the State, specifically in New York City where these deregulated schools have run amuck. And again, instead of holding the neoliberal State accountable for over-testing students and not fully funding public schools, the media and charter school promoters are exploiting vulnerable low-income minority parents to “make a case” for their self-serving agenda to increase charter schools that close frequently.

The current State limit on these poorly-supervised schools is 460. New York City has reached its limit with 235 charter schools which collectively enroll 123,000 students. The rest of the State (“Upstate”) still has 99 charter school slots open. Some extra greedy charter school operators want a few of these “slots” shifted “Downstate” to New York City. Against the public will, the State raised the statewide charter school cap in 2007 and again in 2010.

This most recent big push by egocentric millionaires and their State for more non-transparent charter schools that siphon billions of dollars from under-funded, over-tested, over-surveilled, and constantly demonized public schools comes at a time when rejection and criticism of charter schools nationwide is becoming more mainstream and widespread. Today, few people exhibit a knee-jerk embrace of charter schools. People no longer blindly accept charter schools. Most instinctively do not trust them. And more than 95% of teacher education candidates want to teach in public schools, not charter schools. More people, especially public school boards and teachers and their unions, are beginning to really see and appreciate more deeply the many long-standing profound problems with charter schools. Naturally, they are joining with others to say no to charter schools and are calling on all to vigorously defend public schools which have served 90% of the nation’s youth for more than a century.

While charter schools have always made rich people even richer, they are plagued by racketeering and have high student, teacher, and principal turnover rates; they are notoriously unstable. Nonprofit and for-profit charter schools are also largely deunionized, increase segregation, avoid transparency, often perform poorly, and abuse words like “choice” to mislead vulnerable minority families. Hundreds of nonprofit and for-profit charter schools close each year—sometimes with no warning—leaving thousands of families out in the cold and feeling violated and betrayed. Virtual charter schools, in particular, have an even more appalling track record in every area.

It is time for everyone to join the growing tide of opposition to the privatization of education and defend public education and the right of the people, not owners of capital and their media, to make all major decisions in education and society.

Shawgi Tell is author of the book Charter School Report Card. He can be reached at Read other articles by Shawgi.