Beth Fertig is WNYC’s Contributing Editor for Education. She previously covered politics, which included City Hall during the Giuliani administration, and the U.S. Senate campaigns of Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton. She also covered transportation and infrastructure.
Pre-K Supporters Call State Budget a 'Win.' So Do Charter Schools.
Monday, March 31, 2014 - 06:23 AM
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his allies claimed the state budget a "win" because it included $300 million for expanding pre-kindergarten despite charter school provisions that diminished his control over the sector of privately-managed public schools.
The deal, announced over the weekend and slated to be signed today, requires the city to locate charters inside district school buildings, or pay them to find private space, eliminating the option of charging rent to some, an idea de Blasio floated during the mayor's race.
The de Blasio administration denied the mayor was opposed to charter schools, or needed a course correction from Albany.
"I think it's fair to say the mayor's position his been mischaracterized," spokesman Wiley Norvell said. He added that the city established a working group to improve outcomes when schools share space "as well as address longstanding issues like overcrowding and the need to phase out mobile classroom units."
Instead, his administration and allies focused on what they had won instead: obtaining hundreds of millions of dollars in additional pre-k aid from Albany.
"After two decades of promises, Mayor de Blasio, our governor and legislators delivered for our families and children," according to a statement from the advocacy group Campaign for Children, a member of the UPK-NYC coalition.
The city said it intended to hire 1,000 teachers in order to add more classes in the public schools this fall. Private non-profits will also get funds to expand their pre-k offerings from half-day to full day, or to add extra classes.
The charter school advocates, who felt under attack by the new mayor and appealed to state lawmakers for protections, also said they were thrilled with the deal. Jeremiah Kittredge, executive director of Families for Excellent Schools applauded the governor and state leaders for their response to "a groundswell of parent voices."
But others saw it more as a political move than wise educational policy.
Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, claimed the governor had "rammed" the charter changes into the budget.
"He took this action after a five million dollar advertising blitz by the charter school lobbying and he seems to be letting his education politics follow the money," he said.
The overlooked item: the mayor did not get the nearly $200 million he sought to expand after-school programs for middle school students.