Charter school parents, advocates rally in NYC as expansion plans spark resistance in Albany

Hundreds of charter school leaders and families, joined by two state lawmakers, rallied Tuesday to urge the legislature to support the local expansion of charter schools with efforts expected to face tough headwinds in Albany.

Proposals first unveiled in Gov. Kathy Hochul’s executive budget last month to remove regional caps and reissue defunct charters could make more than one hundred new schools available in New York City.

“This is a war on making sure our families have choices, that our parents can choose where they want to send their kids,” said Assemblyman Brian Cunningham (D-Brooklyn).

“We need to make sure that we are open to all options,” said Assemblyman John Zaccaro Jr. (D-Bronx), “that would achieve the desired outcome that we all want for our children, because it is simply too important not to adopt that mindset.”

But the State Assembly is expected to reject the charter proposals in its one-house budget later this month, according to multiple reports this week. Several key state senators, including the chairs of the statewide and city education committees, have also publicly denounced the plan.

A spokesperson for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie declined to weigh in on the details: “The Assembly’s budget proposal will be out next week,” said press secretary Kerri Biche.

Despite the emerging reports, charter advocates on Tuesday said they plan to keep pressing for charter expansion.

“Unfortunately, I think politics is getting in the way of making the right decisions right now,” said Crystal McQueen-Taylor, executive director of StudentsFirstNY.

“But we do have members who are supportive because they hear from constituents,” she added. “They hear from parents who are struggling to find the right public education option for their child, and they’re seeing that charter schools can be an option.”

If approved, the plan would open up more than 80 charters available under the state cap to city operators, who were previously shut out by regional limits. Hochul’s proposal would also throw more than 20 “zombie” charters back into play that have closed since 2015, whether the schools did not renew their programs or had them revoked.

Roughly 275 charter schools currently operate in the city, as the sector hit its limit downstate in 2019.

Critics of the publicly funded, privately run schools charge that charters divert money and enrollment from the traditional public school system. Under state law, city schools must also provide space or pay for charters in its buildings.

A final budget is due April 1.