Grassroots momentum is growing among New York’s minority communities to lift the cap on charter schools, with Asian-American parents holding a rally Friday outside the city Dept. of Education headquarters.
The push from the Asian community for school choice comes just three days after 500 predominantly black and Hispanic parents held a pro-charter school event outside City Hall.
“We say, ‘Kids over politics,’” said Phil Wong, president of the Chinese American Citizens Council of New York, one of the three groups organizing the pro-charter event.
The newly elected Brooklyn Republican Assemblyman Lester Chang, a charter school booster, is expected to speak.
Wong said many frustrated Asian parents might leave the city altogether if Albany blocks charter school expansion, as some did during the COVID-19 pandemic, enrolling their kids in suburban schools.
The parent-driven campaign 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 some frustrated Asian parents have complained that their kids have been languishing on charter school waiting lists for two years, Wong said.
“The parents see the rigorous curriculum and serious teaching at the charter schools. The charter schools have a longer school day,” Wong said.
Wong also said he’s outraged by state Sen. John Liu’s opposition to lifting the charter cap.
Liu, the former city comptroller whose 2013 campaign for mayor crashed following a criminal fundraising scandal, is the most prominent Asian-American in the state Legislature.
He pointed out that Liu, his wife and his son all benefited from specialized high schools — alternative choice schools for gifted learners — but the state senator, who is chairman of the committee on New York City Education, is fighting charter expansion for other parents’ kids.
“Liu knows he’s out of sync with parents. He is a hypocrite,” Wong said.
Kevin Zhao, the founder of Parents Group New York, said many first-generation Chinese-American immigrants cannot afford to pay tuition to send their kids to private schools and want tuition-free charter schools as an option besides traditional public schools.
“Parents want a higher quality education for their children. We want our children to be academically prepared for the future,” said Zhao, who has two kids, one in kindergarten and high school.
He said he knows three parents who are commuting one hour each way from southern Brooklyn so their kids can attend charter schools in Manhattan.
“We need more charter schools. Charter schools are not private schools They are public schools! We pay for them with our tax dollars,” Zhao said.
Charter schools are publicly funded, privately run schools that typically have a longer school day and year than traditional 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.
There are 275 charter schools currently operating in the city, with 12 more sent to open next fall, bringing the total to 287. The state imposed cap on the city bars any more from opening.
Hochul’s plan would give the city access to some 85 charter school licenses that have not been used in other parts of the state.