Common Sense: Charter schools

The city assault on charter schools ignores ample evidence that this public educational option has for the most part been successful. Long ago making the transition from an experiment into the mainstream, charter school seats are sought after by parents. Using a first-come, first-serve model all children are welcome.

In some parts of the country, charter schools educate the majority of students and are especially popular in minority communities. In New York, the charter school movement — with the support of former Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Cuomo as well as a bipartisan assortment of state senators and assembly members — has been growing for years. That is until now. Mayor de Blasio clearly does not support them and he is quick to take action, as occurred last week when three charter schools started by advocate Eva Moskowitz were denied renewal.

Charter schools by design operate outside many of the standard educational policies of the school districts in which they exist. Essentially, they operate under their own charter which is a collaborative effort of parents, teachers, administrators and other educational professionals. Note that unions are not necessarily part of the mix. Not surprisingly, groups like the UFT are often the biggest critics.

They will argue that charter schools drain funds from public education. You may ask how that can be in as much as charter schools are public schools. If you were to look deeply into what they are saying, you likely would conclude that they only want their kind of public education, an educational system in which the unions have a disproportionate amount of control. Charter schools normally deny the unions this benefit.


State Senator Marty Golden, whom I serve as chief of staff, held a forum on drug abuse issues recently at P.S. 170 at Sixth Avenue and 71st Street. The forum was the outgrowth of a meeting held recently at the Bay Ridge Islamic Center off Bay Ridge Avenue that had been called to address growing drug problems among their youth. These problems not only include cocaine and pills, but now also a return of heroin as a cheap way to get a high – and a quick way to die.

The senator had representatives of drug intervention groups, the district attorney, the police and the leaders of several well-respected Arabic organizations as well as the mosque. Assemblymember Malliotakis as well as representatives of Congressmember Grimm and Assemblymember Ortiz were in attendance and spoke.

The evening was informative with an excellent question-and-answer period. The police received some important information concerning possible drug sales locations and activities. And the community was given information on how best to provide the DA and police with tips.

I did find troubling the lack of interest that the overall Arabic community showed in the meeting. Despite an active outreach effort through the mail, social media and Arabic community leaders, very few members of the community came to the meeting.

There was some speculation that families want to access services, but do not want to do it in the presence of the police or district attorney. I hope that is not the reason and the poor turnout from this key cross-section of our community was simply a result of the cold.

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