Charters in the Big Apple are growing – at the expense of more traditional public school districts. About 62,000 students made the move this year, but why? How many went in search of better education, and how many left over the city’s poor handling of the pandemic? Will the trend reverse and things go back to normal as the pandemic fades, or has the public school system become obsolete?
One reason more parents sent their kids to charters is the belief they offer a better education overall. “Our growth is a direct result of the incredible work of our teachers, staff and school leaders across 272 schools to provide a high-quality education to the students who make up our diverse and vibrant public charter school community, and to give families a choice to find the school that’s best for their child,” said New York City Charter Center CEO James Merriman in explanation for the shift.
Indeed, if it weren’t for the limited number of available spots, more families would likely have made the move.
Fewer Children in the City?
Another possible explanation for the extreme decline is that there may simply be fewer kids. The city saw a birth rate decline, leading to a 3.1% drop in K-12 aged children. Still, the loss of pupils in the Department of Education system is much higher, so this does not fully explain the phenomenon.
Director of education policy at the Manhattan Institute, Ray Domanico, has another possible factor in mind. “The enrollment at the city public schools is down so much, I wonder if the city is losing families,” he said.
Former NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has been ridiculed for many questionable decisions while in service, and his handling of public education was no exception. With far too many African American and Latino students unable to pass math or reading at their grade level, parents wanted other options. Unfortunately, de Blasio wasn’t interested in providing any. Though charter schools are still considered public, not private, the mayor tried to force them to pay a tax to the city the way private academies would.
Seemingly uninterested in doing what is best for the kids and families, de Blasio took another swing at the public education system when he collaborated with the teachers union – one of his greatest political supporters – to delay the reopening of learning institutions during the pandemic. Parents were left with very few options: homeschool, send kids off to charters or private facilities, or just wait it out and let their children fall behind – and not all were able to stay home, reducing even that already short list of choices.
Regardless of the reason, it’s understandable that people want their children to get the best education available. The question now is whether this will continue or if the public school system can bounce back. What will it mean for public education if they don’t – more importantly, where will it leave the city’s youth?
~ Read more from Kirsten Brooker.