With Democratic Wins, Charter Schools Face a Backlash in N.Y. and Other States

In Education On
- Updated


Over the last decade, the charter school movement gained a significant foothold in New York, demonstrating along the way that it could build fruitful alliances with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and other prominent Democrats. The movement hoped to set a national example — if charter schools could make it in a deep blue state like New York, they could make it anywhere.

But the election on Tuesday strongly suggested that the golden era of charter schools is over in New York. The insurgent Democrats who were at the forefront of the party’s successful effort to take over the State Senate have repeatedly expressed hostility to the movement.

John Liu, a newly elected Democratic state senator from Queens, has said New York City should “get rid of” large charter school networks. Robert Jackson, a Democrat who will represent a Manhattan district in the State Senate, promised during his campaign to support charter schools only if they have unionized teachers.

And another incoming Democratic state senator, Julia Salazar of Brooklyn, recently broadcast a simple message about charter schools: “I’m not interested in privatizing our public schools.”

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To the Editor:

Blue Wave May Be Charter Schools’ Black Cloud” (front page, Nov. 10) does an excellent job of sketching the charter school political landscape and has laid bare the conundrum that many of us in the charter movement are facing.

The great majority of the educators we work with are progressive, and their independently managed schools mirror that progressivism in their pedagogy and community interactions. I helped found two such schools in western Queens, and I know how fortunate my neighbors feel to have their children attend them.

The flip side is that the advocacy and political leadership of the charter movement has been fed by money that is decidedly not progressive and has imperiled the charters’ legacy. There is a very good progressive case to be made for charter schools, but the movement must first rediscover its democratic, educator-empowered roots and take a more humble approach to changing the world.

Steve Zimmerman
Sunnyside, Queens
The writer is the director of the Coalition of Public Independent Charter Schools.

2018 Charter Schools and the Achievement Gap


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