Charter School Supporters Make Voices Heard in Albany

As an education battle heats up in Albany, thousands of supporters of charter schools held a rally at the state Capitol Wednesday. Zack Fink filed the following report.

ALBANY - Thousands of charter school students took the day off from learning in the classroom to attend a rally on the steps of the state Capitol.

At a similar rally held this time last year, Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke to the crowd. This year, Cuomo sent Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul.

"For years, we have had children trapped in classrooms that were failing, We've been told to sit quiet and accept the status quo. We've been told to throw more money and watch it go down the drain," Hochul said.

The governor has placed a number of controversial education proposals in the state budget that's due April 1. They include weakening teacher tenure eligibility and creating a stronger evaluation system.

He has an ally on those key issues in state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

"We want to make sure that every single one of you today, and those who will go to charter schools and get education in the future, have the possibility and the opportunity to succeed," Skelos said.

According to supporters of charter schools, there are 178 failing schools in New York State, 91 of which are located in New York City. Charters, they say, are a way to improve all schools by introducing an element of competition.

"I'm a supporter. I believe in the best education possible for my son. I have four boys," said one person at the rally.

"I'm the parent of a student at a charter school in Hell's Kitchen, Success Academy's Hell's Kitchen, and I think they are important because it gives all of the kids an opportunity to actually get a school that's going to work for them," said another.

Detractors, though, say public schools have been underfunded, and resources make a huge difference when it comes to educating New York's kids. Charters, they argue, have it easier than traditional public schools.

"Never seen a charter industry person say, 'I'll take a failing school,' because that would mean they'd have to actually serve all of those needy children that they seem not to serve," said UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

Many of the governor's education proposals are opposed by Assembly Democrats. Negotiations over the next few weeks will determine which of the governor's ideas are adopted. 

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