ALBANY, N.Y. (April 1, 2023) — Over the past 12 months, charter schools in New York City have applied for reductions in their enrollment that have eliminated nearly 7,500 charter schools seats among them. Total, those seats represent 1 in 4 seats that were originally authorized at these schools. The list of schools includes more than a dozen Success Academy schools, including three with enrollment declines of over 60 percent. A public school with enrollment declines of that size would be slated to close.
“If data were driving public policy, we would not be talking about charter schools right now. It is only on Governor Hochul’s budget agenda because of the influence of her billionaire donors, who have their own interests and profits at stake in the charter fight,” said Jasmine Gripper, Executive Director of the Alliance for Quality Education.
This data shows that charters were also impacted by the shrinking enrollment that has been observed at public schools citywide. But for charter schools, which are presently fighting in Albany for expansion as part of the State budget, it raises a bigger question: Why should we allow more charters to open — either by lifting the regional cap or reauthorizing “zombie” charters that failed and closed — when there aren’t enough students to fill the seats that already exist?
The massive declines in enrollment directly contradict the main argument being made by charter schools and their supporters: the oft-cited claim we need to open more schools because of “long waitlists” (waitlists that are self-reported and unverifiable because no agency, city or state, audits them.)
Clearly, there are already plenty of seats in charters going unfilled. More than 7,500 seats at charter schools were open and available at current schools to any students who wanted them, and there was not enough demand to fill them so they have been eliminated.
If demand from families isn’t behind the push in Albany to raise the cap on charter schools, then what is? One likely source is Michael Bloomberg, former mayor and well-known charter supporter who has spent $5 million for statewide ads* to push elected officials to cave to Kathy Hochul’s budget. Hochul has also received almost one million dollars in campaign cash from wealthy pro-charter school donors, including hedge fund billionaires like Steve and Alexandra Cohen, Paul Tudor Jones and Daniel Loeb, who is also a board member at Success Academy charter schools and longtime Republican donor. These are many of the same donor interests that helped keep the Senate GOP in power for many years through donations to the IDC, and now that they lost that battle, it appears they are courting a new ally, Governor Kathy Hochul.
*reported by Nicholas Fandos at the New York Times