No More Charter Schools in New York State

Since 1998 charter schools in New York state have deprived under-funded public schools of billions of dollars and greatly enriched the private interests that operate these segregated schools.

Not surprisingly, poor academic performance, regular school closings, corruption, scandal, and controversy have been the norm in the crisis-prone charter school sector in New York State for the past 25 years. It has been the norm nationwide for 32 years.

As expected, promoters of these outsourced schools governed by unelected private persons remain relentless in their efforts to expand and multiply charter schools. There is just too much profit at stake for neoliberal forces to abandon school privatization.

Like her predecessor, Governor of New York, Kathy Hochul, supports funneling public school funds to more deregulated charter schools. When she presented her budget at the State Capitol in Albany on Wednesday, February 1, 2023, Hochul announced that she will eliminate the limit on the number of charter schools allowed to open in New York City.

This means that, “An estimated 100 additional charters could be up for grabs citywide as a result of the proposal, though Hochul would keep a statewide cap at 460 operators. Roughly 275 charter schools currently operate in NYC.” Approximately 360 charter schools are currently open and operating statewide.

Charter school promoters in New York City and their media representatives like the New York Post and even the New York Times, have been hankering for years from more charter schools in the City. They have been relentless in their quest to seize as much public funds and property as possible. They continually use their enormous wealth, power, and privilege to influence key decision-makers at all levels of government to fulfill their narrow aims. They do not care about the public interest and hide behind the veneer of high ideals to conceal their self-serving interests.

Not surprisingly dozens of legislators and many public school advocates have come out in opposition to such privatization. The public does not benefit from raising the cap on the number of charter schools allowed to operate in New York City, especially since there is evidence that enrollment numbers and enrollment targets are actually declining in New York City charter schools.

The public increasingly sees these oversold schools as nothing more than pay-the-rich schemes masquerading as “the last best hope for low-income minority kids.” In reality, charter schools close every week across the country, leaving many parents, students, and teachers out in the cold. So much for “free market” education.

Education in a modern society must not be commodified. It must not be commercialized and handed over to private interests intent on maximizing profit. Education is not a business. The profit motive has no place in modern education. Cashing in on kids is not a good model for education.

Education in a modern society based on mass industrial production is a collective human responsibility, without which society could not move forward. Such a massive and critical enterprise cannot be left to chance, it cannot be left to the law of the jungle or a survival-of-the fittest ethos. The “invisible hand” is not pro-social; it ensures winners and losers. Such outmoded arrangements only ensure greater chaos, anarchy, and violence in education—something the public does not need and the economy does not benefit from. Indeed, with even more charter schools in New York City problems will only multiply for all schools, including charter schools themselves. Competition lowers quality for everyone, not the other way around.

All should unite in opposition to more charter schools in New York State (especially New York City) and defend the right to education. Public school funds belong to public schools, not schools that claim to be public but are in fact privatized and marketized schools that strive to maximize profit at the expense of kids.

More charter schools in New York City and beyond will not benefit education, society, the economy, or the national interest in any way. Privatization of vital social programs injures society while concentrating more public wealth in fewer private hands, increasing instability, and lowering quality.

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