BY KYLE ROSENKRANS
Imagine you’re not satisfied with your child’s school – or worse – your school district is downright struggling. You’re desperate for options. You can’t afford private school tuition. You can’t move. But you love your child and want him or her to excel; you want him or her to thrive in a great learning environment.
You’re not alone. This is why so many families are turning to charter schools – they’re tuition-free public schools that have the freedom and flexibility to innovate and provide a great education to their students.
Queens families have some great public charter school options. Parents and children here are fortunate to have 13 charter schools dot the educational landscape.
These schools opened their doors because their school leaders saw a great need – whether it was over-crowding in traditional district classrooms, or the persistent achievement gap between English Language Leaners and students whose parents speak English at home, or a deficiency of high-quality special education services. There are a host of reasons that charter schools were needed here.
Queens’ charter schools are bridging gaps and working to ensure their students achieve academic success.
Despite the schools’ good work, their students face discrimination that other public school children do not. Children in charter schools are being shortchanged. In New York City, charter students only receive 68 cents on the dollar for their education compared to students in traditional district schools. It’s as if they are two-thirds of a child. That’s wrong.
That’s not the only inequity children in charter schools face. The vast majority of charter schools in Queens are located in private space because co-location has not been an option for most. That means the schools are forced to spend money from their operating budget to pay for rent and all other costs associated with running a building. This amounts to a tremendous bill, and is the biggest hurdle that charter schools in private space face.
Last year, Albany passed a law that helped many New York City charter schools. It helped new or expanding schools in the city by providing them either free space in district-operated buildings or help with paying their facilities costs.
Unfortunately, pre-existing charter schools were left out – and that’s 40 percent of all New York City charter schools. Charter schools that are not eligible for this assistance are the only public schools in the state with no access to publicly provided recurring facilities funds. This law left out 11 Queens charter schools which are in private space and do not receive any help paying for their buildings.
That amounts to 4,375 Queens public school children who are denied their fair share.
This Borough is home to some outstanding charter schools – Growing Up Green in Long Island City, Central Queens Academy in Elmhurst and Academy of the City in Woodside to name just a few – with dedicated teachers who make it their mission to reach all of their students.
Charter school students should not be penalized because their parents exercised school choice. They deserve to be treated right and shouldn’t be shortchanged just because they attend a different kind of public school.
It’s time our state lawmakers hear the pleas of the charter school students who have been left out. Let’s make this the year we level the playing field for all of our state’s public school children.
Kyle Rosenkrans is the CEO of the Northeast Charter Schools Network.