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New York Post
Malcolm X’s daughter joins pro-charter forces in Albany as progressives fight school expansion
By Zach Williams,
ALBANY – Charter schools in New York got back-up Tuesday from the daughter of late civil-rights leader Malcolm X, shortly after progressives launched a fresh attack against a proposed expansion of charter schools in the Big Apple.
“We cannot withhold good educational values and opportunities from any child,” said Ilyasah Shabazz, an author whose famous dad was assassinated in 1965, at a state Capitol rally alongside a group of Democratic legislators, parents and dozens of children.
“We must allow parents to decide where they want to send their children and provide them with all of the options in doing so,” she said.
A smattering of opponents argued at an earlier gathering that charters unfairly divert resources away from public schools while keeping much about their inner workings secret.
“We are setting up a two-tier system in New York City. No way. No way,” said Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP New York State Conference, at the smaller event. “So I come today to call on the governor to [not] eliminate the charter cap.”
Gov. Kathy Hochul has proposed loosening the cap on the number of charters allowed in the city’s five boroughs despite resistance from the state legislature’s Democratic supermajorities led by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers).
The issue has been key during negotiations over the state budget, which is due to be approved Saturday, although Albany Democrats expect negotiations to not conclude by that deadline.
Supporters say more charter schools – which are publicly funded but privately run – would give minority parents in particular more options for educating their children without having to send them to underperforming public schools.
“My job is to support a budget that is going to be equitable, to make sure that you get what you need in your school, so your schools are as nicely financed as some of the other ones, private and all the others,” state Assemblywoman Stefani Zinerman (D-Brooklyn) said at the pro-charter rally.
State law currently allows only 275 charter schools in New York City and 460 statewide. The governor is pushing to eliminate the city cap while also allowing so-called “zombie” charters — or licenses from now-defunct charters — to get reissued to new ventures.
“Education matters, and our children matter,” state Sen. Kevin Thomas (D-Nassau, LI) said at the rally backing charters. “And unlike the rhetoric that’s out there these days, charter schools are not evil. That is how we need to start this conversation. They educate our youth, our future leaders.”
“There’s minimal support overall in the Assembly for charters, but it’s all part of negotiation,” Heastie told reporters at the Capitol on March 15.
Stewart-Cousins said the same day that her Democratic conference is focused on improving regular public schools with the help of the state budget by increasing funding and decreasing class sizes rather than lifting the cap on city charter schools.
Opponents of Hochul’s proposal vowed Tuesday at their Capitol rally to help legislative leaders hold the line.
Some foes challenged the idea that charters help minority children.
“If charter schools are so good, why don’t rich white communities want them? Why doesn’t Westchester clamor for more charter schools?” state Sen. Jabari Brisport, a former public school teacher, said.
“They don’t want them because we know what works already. We know that when schools are well-funded, they have after-school [programs]. They have small class sizes. The teachers are well-paid. There are extracurriculars. There are sports and the arts. Then we know our students can thrive,” he said.
State Senate New York City Education Chair John Liu (D-Queens) said he was “offended” by the idea that charters help “black and brown kids.
“I don’t remember seeing any black and brown people saying that charter schools are good for black and brown kids,” Liu added, despite data and growing reports to the contrary.
Liu sidestepped a question from The Post about whether he would vote against any budget bill that might include an increase in charters, as well as a second query on if Hochul has directly reached out to him in pursuit of a deal.
“The governor is very focused on many aspects of her proposed budget, and we’ll see what happens in the coming week,” Liu replied.
Charter fans highlighted a not-so-secret weapons of their own Tuesday as the budget battle enters its final stretch: Dozens of school children begging Albany Democrats to raise the New York City cap.
“A charter school gave me all these different outlooks on life I didn’t have before,” said Tyron Brown, a ninth-grader at Capital Repertory Bronx Charter School in the district of Assembly Education Chair Michael Benedetto (D-Bronx).
“This can happen to many more students if you just give them a chance,” Tyron said.
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