REPORT: Charter Backers Pay to Play in New York 1

REPORT: Charter Backers Pay to Play in New York

Flush with Cash, Charter School Industry Attempts to Buy Influence With Senate Democrats

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 12, 2020) — Senate democrats received $409,910 from charter school political donors in 2019, according to a new data released Thursday. The campaign data detailed in the new report, titled “Pay to Play: Charter Schools Buy Influence With New York’s Senate Democrats,” shows a clear attempt by the charter industry to buy influence and favor with the legislature.

Read the full report here.

Today, the courts invalidated the work of the Public Campaign Financing Commission. With this development, the report’s findings signal that legislators need to enact law immediately that will stop the undue influence of campaign cash from charter school donors, and end a system that benefits the wealthy few over the many. 

The State Senate and Assembly are expected to release budget proposals in the coming week, and it remains to be seen whether those proposals will prioritize public schools over the publicly funded, privately run charter schools. Many Democratic Senators have committed to fighting for state revenues to fund public schools, but there are many others who have not, including some who have accepted campaign contributions from charter school political donors.

Governor Cuomo, who is the greatest beneficiary of campaign contributions from the charter school industry, proposed a budget for 2020-21 that would give charter schools in New York City a school aid increase of 5.3 percent, but public schools an increase of 1.9 percent. That would drive 67 percent of the school aid increase for New York City to the 11 percent of students who attend charter schools. 

The report references the recent history of pay-to-play around charter schools in New York. The backers of charter schools, which receive public funding but are privately run, have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on influencing the politics of school privatization in recent years. The result has been State budgets that shortchange public schools while providing for expansion and increase of charter schools.

The report demands that Democratic legislators who have accepted campaign contributions from the charter school industry to return those contributions, and calls on the Legislature to immediately enact campaign finance reforms. 

The report is a collaborative publication from the public education advocacy organization Alliance for Quality Education, the Black Institute, Make the Road New York, New York Communities for Change, and Citizen Action of New York.

“We need to prioritize fully funding Foundation Aid for our public schools, where the overwhelming majority of our students get their education, instead of continuing the giveaways to privately run charter schools. Legislators who are reliant on donations from the charter school industry are not able to be the champion for public school students that we need.”

Read the full report here.