In an effort to bring fiscal clarity to the cost to the city, Councilman Stephen Levin is asking the Department of Education (DOE) to put a moratorium on opening new facilities until the department can produce a detailed report of the funding levels over the next five years.
“We need a moratorium on new charter schools in New York City until there is an understanding of how this money is being spent now and at what level charter schools will be funded in the future,” Levin said.
According to Levin, the city has allotted $210 million, or 25 percent more, in funding for charter schools next year, and is paying double for the schools than what it was just three years ago.
“Instead of using charter schools as a way to find best practices for the entire school system, charter school executives have instead focused on growing the total number of charters in the city,” Levin said. “With limited funds, we as a city must have a handle on where our money is going before allocating further funding into new charter schools.”
Steve Zimmerman, director of the Open School Project and founder of the Academy of the City Charter School in Woodside, was surprised to hear there was an increase in funding from the city.
“It’s just not true. We typically expect increases of 2 to 3 percent,” Zimmerman said in rebuttal to the proposed moratorium. “We get an amount every year from Albany that’s been frozen now for three years in a row and will be frozen for a fourth year.”
Although Zimmerman agreed that there should be a better understanding from the city, and acknowledges the new vision of charter schools coming to the city with mayor-elect Bill de Blasio.
“I think it’s perfectly fine to have a new mayor to have a new view,” he said. “It will be healthy for the sector and education in general.”
Dmytro Fedkowskyj, the Queens representative on the Panel for Education Policy at the DOE, said the 25 percent increase is due to money coming from the federal government on a lag to the state.
He added the problem regarding oversight is because individual boards are set up for each charter school to control the money.
“We need to find a better way to do everything, but we need to take baby steps to do that,” Fedkowskyj said. “It diverts attention from schools that are struggling.”
He said he hopes a clearer vision of dealing with charter schools in the future will help cut the cost to the city and build a fairer playing field for public schools.
“I think it makes sense so that so we can examine what we need and what it does to the communities themselves, instead of opening them up like new trees,” he said.