Mayor de Blasio fired his opening salvo in the war on charter schools last week, cutting $210 million that was slated for their expansion and redirecting it to his prekindergarten program, as well as the addition of more space to traditional schools.
While we support full-day pre-K for all 4-year-olds, we do not want to see it established by undercutting charter schools, which are largely providing an excellent education to the children they serve.
Just as with the debate over how to fund the operating costs of universal pre-K, we side with Gov. Cuomo rather than the mayor on charter schools. One component of Cuomo’s plan is allowing charters to offer pre-K for the first time, and his administration is not shy about showing its support for nontraditional schools, which we’re glad to see.
“I just want to say first of all on behalf of the governor, we support what [charters] do,” media reports said Lt. Gov. Robert told more than 1,000 charter school supporters at a rally in Albany on Tuesday. “We have a very strong charter school community across the state. It’s not about anything but putting children first. It’s about choice.”
Unfortunately, de Blasio doesn’t see it that way. For him and his allies in the teachers union, who despise charter schools, it’s about working to prevent their growth and improvement, as, for example, but cutting funds former Mayor Bloomberg’s administration had allocated for them.
The irony is this: One problem charters face is space. It’s expensive for them to build or rent, and the result is that many have been co-located in traditional schools. That’s a problem because resources in those buildings were often diverted toward the charters and away from students in the old schools under Bloomberg. But cutting funds for physical charter expansion can only worsen that problem.
And it’s a shame that de Blasio, who as the brand-new mayor of New York City has a rather full plate — and would even without all this snow — is getting himself embroiled in a battle with the governor in his first month in office. When de Blasio said he wanted to raise taxes to pay for pre-K, Cuomo said the state would fund it without a tax hike. De Blasio could have declared victory and gone about opening preschools. Instead he dug in his heels on the tax hike and widened the battle with Albany by dragging charters into it. Though it’s unlikely, we hope Cuomo can persuade him to drop the taxes and keep the charters.