"Success Academy, Girls Prep, Manhattan Charter School," Naomi Pena says.

Pena lists the charter schools that have sent mailers to her home since January, marketing their services to her and other parents of city public schoolchildren.

"Classes include … daily science, are hands-on, collaborative," the president of Community Education Council District (CECD) 1 said, reading from a mailer.

The mailers are the result of a city policy that began under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an advocate of charter schools, which are privately-run but taxpayer-financed.

The policy allows the charters to reach parents through a private contractor that maintains a mailing list for the city education department.

About 100 charters use the company to send marketing materials, such as postcards. The company, Vanguard, charges the school directly for the service.

But Pena wants the mailers to stop. She raised the issue last month at a town hall meeting that Mayor Bill de Blasio held.

"This is a form of siphoning off from our public schools to them," she said on March 20.

The mayor also is not a fan of charters, saying they focus too much on test prep and exclude high-need students.

Now, his administration is debating whether to end the charter school mailer policy.

"The sense that there's a bit of an unfair playing field in the view of a lot of these parents," de Blasio said Thursday. "We have to come to a decision soon about how we have to handle it. But there's not a final decision."

Mitchell Flax is the founder of Valence College Prep, a new charter middle school preparing to open in Corona, Queens in August. He says Valence paid Vanguard more than $5,000 to send mailings to at least 6,000 households.  

"It's about equity of families in the community being able to know that there's a new school that's opening for them, or that our school is an option for them," Flax said.

Flax said the mailings Vanguard sent led to about 70 applications from parents. If charters are barred from using the mailing contractor, they likely will be forced to spend more money on outreach, diverting resources from the classroom.

"It starts a dialogue with parents who otherwise wouldn't know about the school," Flax said.

A dialogue that City Hall is now weighing whether to end.


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