Families Flee Failing Schools, Flock to Charters

Brooklyn charters can’t meet demand

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Demand for charter schools in Brooklyn is at an all time high despite pushback from Mayor Bill de Blasio, the New York Post reports.

In some of Brooklyn’s most impoverished communities, including Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bushwick, and Ocean Hill, 40 percent of all kindergarten-age students applied to charter schools for this coming fall. However, the number of charter schools is not growing fast enough to keep up with increasing demand. Nearly 11,000 children were placed on waiting lists in 2014.

Jeremiah Kittredge, CEO of the pro-charter group Families for Excellent Schools, criticized the slow growth of charter schools, telling the New York Post, "the timing and nature of these blanket rejections should raise serious concerns for New Yorkers."

While Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed increasing the number of charter schools in New York State by more than 20 percent, Mayor Bill de Blasio is determined to instead turn around the worst performing public schools, pledging more than $150 million to the public school system. Charter schools are also facing pushback from teachers unions, as many charter schools do not hire union teachers. Teachers unions were some of de Blasio’s staunchest allies during his past election.

In preparation for a competitive democratic primary, teacher unions are already flexing their political clout for 2016. Randi Weingarten, president of the politically powerful American Federation of Teachers, and former head of New York City’s teachers union, announced an ad buy in New Hampshire to influence the Democratic primary on Friday.

"We’re focused on making sure that the voices of working families are heard by presidential candidates and that the conversation about public education and our economy extends from the kitchen table to the campaign trail," Weingarten said in a release.

Enrollment at failing public schools is down 44 percent in the past five years as families are enter charter school lotteries. Parents who do get their children enrolled in charter schools, on average, report positive experiences with their children’s education.

Families for Excellent Schools reports that 66 percent of charter school parents are very satisfied with their kids’ education, compared with only 45 percent for regular public schools. A new study found that across the 122 lowest performing public schools in central Brooklyn, nine of 10 students read and perform math below grade level.

Margarita Rodriguez, whose daughter is a kindergarten student as Success Academy in Prospect Heights told the New York Post that the city should expand access to charters.

"They should open up more charter schools. There wouldn’t be thousands of parents on waiting lists if the word didn’t get out. Many children are zoned for failing schools," Rodriguez said.

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