The school year begins again today at Success Academy. That will not delight all of the 20,000 scholars in the network’s 47 schools across the city, some of whom would surely rather not hit the books until six long weeks from now, when district schools return, but it surely pleases most of their parents. After, all that’s why they chose to send their kids there.
Like New York’s other charters, Success schools have the flexibility to do things differently, catering education to what they believe to be in the best interests of the students they serve. Some charters have longer school days and years; some have especially rigorous curricula; some offer special services to youngsters from challenged backgrounds. Almost all have far more flexibility to manage staff outside of rigid union rules.
When New York State opened the door to independently run, publicly-funded charters back in 1998, no one could have predicted what kind of demand they’d see. All expectations have been shattered. Today, even as 267 charters serve a total of 138,000 students throughout the five boroughs, more than 80,000 applicants seek to get one of 33,000 available seats.
And back in 1998, no one could have predicted what kind of results charters would deliver for kids. Again, expectations shattered: Nearly 6 in 10 charter students are at or above grade level in English, and more than 6 in 10 in math. At district-run public schools, the equivalent numbers are 47% and 46%. And charters serve mostly African-American and Hispanic kids, roughly a third of whom are reading or doing math at grade level in the traditional public school system.
Objectively, there’s no education reform of the past quarter-century that’s proven more impactful. Yet even though charter operators are champing at the bit to serve more families, the Legislature, in thrall to the teachers union, maintains a strict, arbitrary limit on the number of charters allowed to open.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, tear down this cap.