Minority educators demand cap lift to open more charter schools in NYC

Minority educators urged legislators Friday to approve a law that would lift the cap and allow more charter schools to open in New York City.

“Parents need options, especially parents of color,” said Rev. Al Cockfield, founder of Lamad Academy Charter School in Brooklyn and chairman of the board of the Black Latinx Asian Charter Collaborative, a group representing charter schools led by minority educators.

Cockfield, during a BLACC meeting Friday at the Latino Pastoral Action Center’s Urban Ministry Complex in the Bronx, said “public schools in minority communities are not doing well for our scholars” and that “charter schools are the alternative.”

“The whole New York City school system is not failing — it’s not all districts that are failing. It’ just particular districts of color, black and brown folks are failing,” he said.

About 90% of students enrolled in the city’s 275 existing charter schools are black and Hispanic.

Rev. Alfred Cockfield II founded Lamad Academy Charter School in Brooklyn and is the chairman of the board of the Black Latinx Asian Charter Collaborative.

The ongoing pro-charter 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.

There are 12 more charter schools scheduled to open next fall, bringing the total to 287.

But the state-imposed cap 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.

Another 23 unused or “zombie” charter school licenses could be redistributed to new operators under her plan.

“Parents should have choice,” said Bishop Raymond Rivera, head of the Latino Pastoral Action Center, and founder of the Family Life Academy charter schools in The Bronx.

“Charter schools are public schools. Charter schools empower the community, particularly parents, to have control over the decisions.”

Cockfield and Rivera emphasized if there are going to be more charter schools, more of them should be led or run by minority educators.

“We haven’t had a seat at the table,” said Rivera said.

“We should have more charters of color because all the data says kids learn better when they have role models that look like them and when they have a curriculum that represents them.”

Senator Luis Sepulveda
Senator Luis Sepulveda was the only elected lawmaker to show up at the BLACC group’s meeting.
Matthew McDermott

“Do they learn exclusively that way? No. But the data and science says it helps.”

State Sen. Luis Sepúlveda (D-Bronx) was the only elected lawmaker to show up at the BLACC group’s meeting.

Other Bronx legislators who were invited — Sen. Gustavo Rivers, Assembly members Kenny Burgos, Nathalia Fernández, Yudelka Tapia and Councilman Rafael Salamanca Jr., were no-shows, organizers said.

Sepulveda said the charter school sector has been a success and deserves support, though he acknowledged stiff resistance from other legislators.

“What do I do, so people accept what the charter schools are doing. That they acknowledge, especially in communities of color or poor communities, that in most cases you’re doing a better job than the traditional school,” Sepulveda said..

“Why do you want to take that apart? Within our conference, you have black and brown legislators that I know deep down inside they have to contend with how charter schools are doing better than traditional schools but also deal with all the forces around them.

“That is what causes the inertia or lack of progress.”

He was referring to opposition from forces such as the United Federation of Teachers.

“I struggle with leadership in the state that wants to close down an educational option that generally speaking is successful,” Sepúlveda said.

Senator Luis Sepulveda joins charter school leaders and members of Latinx to discuss community grown charters of color, racial equity, parent and community empowerment.
Sepulveda said the charter school sector has been a success and deserves support.
Matthew McDermott

Asked if charter cap will be lifted or not, Supulveda said, “Hope always springs eternal.”

“I support the cause of BLACC. If you’re going to increase the charter numbers, it has to go predominately to educators of color,” the senator 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.

But critics claim they divert resources from traditional public schools and don’t serve as many special needs students.