More than 500 parents and students rallied at City Hall Tuesday, urging resistant state lawmakers to lift the cap and allow more New York City charter schools to open.
Parents and students carried signs that read, “Our kids can’t wait — lift the cap” and “My child — my choice” or “Put kids first! “NYC needs Charters.”
The push comes as Gov. Kathy Hochul’s plan to lift the cap has faced fierce resistance from state Democratic legislators allied with the anti-charter teachers union.
But only two politicians — Assembly members Brian Cunningham of Brooklyn and John Zaccaro of the Bronx — showed up to back the campaign.
“I would think that most Democrats would support this. This is like upward mobility. Public schools are not doing well. They haven’t been doing well for a long time. The success of charter schools, in general, should speak for itself,” said Harlem mom Natasha Burrell, whose two children, Maverick and Monarch, attend the Success Academy charter in Hell’s Kitchen.
“They need to lift the cap because education is key — education is important. It creates opportunities. Charter school is the way — it’s the way for my family.”
The city has 287 approved charter schools, but others in the pipeline or planning stages can’t open because of the legal cap — and parents in neighborhoods served by failing public schools want the chance to put their kids in a better learning environment.
Anyta Brown, a public charter grandma from Brooklyn’s East New York, said state legislators “ought to be for the people” who want more educational opportunities for kids rather than siding with defenders of the status quo.
“That cap has to be lifted… where does our money go? We should all have a voice for where our money goes. You’re all spending furiously on things that should not be needed, but we need education to be our top priority,” Brown said.
Harlem parent Kathryn Marrow, whose 16-year-old son, Christopher, attends the Kipp NYC College Prep Charter, said, “I was amazed that there were only two politicians here because this is a very hot topic.”
About 90% of charter school students are Black and Hispanic, and Marrow said more of them should be allowed to open to help close the racial achievement gap.
“There are people of color who want to open up these charter schools, so they can assist the children of color who are undervalued,” she said.
Cunningham, who represents Crown Heights and Prospect Lefferts Gardens, said lawmakers should support traditional and publicly funded charter schools instead of pitting them against each other.
Noting the record increase in funding for traditional public schools, Cunningham said, “This choice is not a choice of saying that one doesn’t matter or the other. It is giving parents the choice to choose.”
Zaccaro, who represents Morris Park, Pelham Gardens and Allerton in the Bronx, said, “We need to make sure we’re open to all options to achieve a desired outcome that we all want for our children,” he said.
He admitted the fight over the charter school cap has become a “political football” and a “political hot potato” in Albany.
Former three-term Republican Gov. George Pataki, who approved the original charter school law, recently told The Post it’s racist to deny minority students the opportunity for a better education.
Pataki on Tuesday said he was heartened by the parental turnout at the rally and hoped it would spur lawmakers fearful of the powerful anti-charter teachers union to show some courage and do the right thing.
“It’s a simple question,” Pataki said. “You’re either on the side of the parents and children or on the side of the teachers’ union.”
“It’s clearly been proven that charter schools work. We have to hope that politicians will see the light.”
Charter schools are publicly funded, privately run schools that typically have a longer school day and year than traditional school public school students.
Students at charter schools largely outperform neighboring district schools on the state’s standardized Math and English Language Arts exams, a Post series revealed.
The overwhelming majority of charter schools are non-union and have more flexibility to operate and set their own curriculum.
Charter school backers have accused some lawmakers, including Sen. Robert Jackson (D-Manhattan), of being hypocrites for sending their own kids to private school while opposing the charter school option for mostly poor and working class minority parents who can’t afford private school tuition.
Opponents including the United Federation of Teachers complain that charter schools divert resources from traditional public schools amid declining enrollment. The funding follows the student.
Assemblyman Education Chairman Michael Benedetto (D-Bronx) told The Post Tuesday that “nothing has changed” in terms of objections from Assembly Democrats to raising the cap or even reauthorizing so-called “zombie charters” — 20 or so charter licenses that could be transferred from schools that closed.
Additional reporting by Zach Williams