In DC and New York, Politicians Try to Score Cheap Points at the Expense of Charter Schools

Charter schools are being hit once again this week, and people are fighting back. Earlier this week, as many as 17,000 thousands advocates for charter schools gathered in New York City, after a successful such gathering last year drew thousands more public school parents. Their aim was to show the city that there are an awful lot of tax-paying parents who want options for education. 

Eva Mokowitz, CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools asked the parents of their 4,600 students to march across the Brooklyn Bridge with their children on Wednesday morning. “Your child’s education is threatened. Our very existence is threatened. Opponents want to take away our funding and our facilities,” she wrote. “These attacks are a real danger — we cannot stand idly by.”

These parents, students, and educators were marching to raise awareness against Bill deBlasio, a mayoral candidate who says that he will charge charter schools rent to use space in public school buildings. Currently, charter schools are allowed to use this space for free. Since these schools are publicly funded, this is like asking traditional schools to pay rent- it’s already paid by the taxpayer. In fact, de Blasio wants to take it a step further, letting schools decide if they want to share space with charter schools or not. Currently, they are not given the option to say “no, thanks” to having a charter school on campus. There are 183 charter schools in New York City, and space is limited. This could become a serious issue. 

Meanwhile, charter schools are being threatened in Washington, D.C., too. If the government shutdown continues, D.C. officials said that they would close charter schools, turning away 35,000 students, 43% of all D.C. public school students. On October 15, charter schools in D.C. are expecting their quarterly paycheck, but that paycheck might not be coming if the government remains closed. 

Some schools have small reserve funds that will allow them to operate for a bit longer, some do not. Donald Hense of Friendship Public Charter School said that his reserve is very small and won’t last long, but he is better off than others.  ”Some schools that are very small have no reserves, and they are actually depending on the money to come that day,” he said. “Without that they will actually close their doors. This is outrageous.”

This has education leaders upset with democrats. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Congressional delegate representing Washington, D.C., is a democrat herself and not happy with her political party. ““Democrats, at this critical moment, have abandoned their own long-held principled position that D.C.’s local budget must be distinguished from federal spending bills,” she said, “The Senate’s current hold on the city’s budget is absurd.” 

The Senate’s hold on the entire country is absurd, and they are wielding this power in increasingly absurd ways to get their way. School choice is an issue about which people feel very passionately. It’s too bad that it is being used as a pawn by politicians hoping to score some cheap points.