Dear Commons Community,
New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina and representatives from charter schools had their first meeting yesterday since Mayor Bill de Blasio took office. While one newspaper account expected the meeting to be “tense”, every indication was that it was cordial and respectful. As reported in the New York Times:
“During his mayoral campaign, Bill de Blasio criticized charter schools, which are privately run and publicly funded, citing their “destructive impact” on traditional schools. He proposed charging rent to many of them, and spoke of stopping pre-existing plans to expand or open 28 charter schools in the coming school year.
After the private meeting, however, participants said that little to no policy was discussed. Instead, they focused on issues such as “serving our kids who are low-income and at-risk,” said Rafiq Kalam Id-Din, a teacher and principal at Teaching Firms of America Professional Preparatory Charter School in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
“On that we are collectively united,” he said.
There were indications of conflict that could still arise. After the meeting, James Merriman, the chief executive of the New York City Charter School Center, urged Mr. de Blasio, who did not attend, to abandon his proposal to halt the expansion or opening of the charter schools, which are slated to serve about 5,600 students. Students have already enrolled in classes at these schools in the fall. “I have a simple question for him,” said Mr. Merriman of the mayor. “Can he look every parent in the eye who expects to send their child to these schools in the fall and say to them, ‘The school that I will now force you to go to is going to be better than the school I am taking away from you’?”
Mr. Merriman said he expected Mr. de Blasio to make a decision on the proposal this week.
Charter schools flourished under Mayor Bloomberg, benefiting from Wall Street donations and free rent. Now, the charter school sector is struggling to determine how it will work with the de Blasio administration.
There are 183 charter schools in New York City, serving about 70,000 children, or about 6 percent of the student population citywide. Some parents, teachers and principals have argued fiercely against policies that would restrict charter growth. They have organized rallies attended by thousands and advertised extensively to share their view.
More recently, though, charter school leaders have signaled their willingness to work with the administration. This month, a coalition representing 45 schools and educational groups, and more than 13,000 students, released a statement announcing a desire for “a more collaborative working relationship with Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Fariña.”
Charter school advocates would be wise to find common ground in working with the new administration.