NYSED Commissioner appears at charter school rally

Feb 2, 2016

Charter school advocates rallied in Albany Monday.  About one-thousand students, parents and teachers from across the state called on state lawmakers to erase the funding gap between public and charter schools and create equity.

Statewide charter school students receive 75-cents on the dollar compared to students in district schools. Duncan Kirkwood of Buffalo is with Northeast Charter Schools Network.  Kirkwood said the gap in Buffalo is even wider.

Students who attended Monday's charter school rally in Albany.
Credit Photo coutresty of Northeast Charter Schools Network

"Buffalo charter school students only get 60-percent of what a traditional school students get for funding and support," said Kirkwood. 

Charter school advocates are calling for equity and more education choices.

"We're not asking for more than our fair share of the pie. We believe charter schools should get equity in funding per student. Essentially charter schools are doing more with less," explained Kirkwood.

The 12th annual Charter Advocacy Day is co-hosted by the New York City Charter School Center and the Northeast Charter Schools Network.  New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia appeared at the rally and addressed the crowd. But her appearance is being highly criticized by the teachers union. The New York State United Teachers said Elia's appearance at a political rally sends the wrong message.   

NYSED Commissioner MaryEllen Elia spoke at Monday's charter school rally.
Credit Photo coutresty of Northeast Charter Schools Network

NYSUT President Karen Magee accuses Elia of 'creating a distraction'.   

"The Common Core Task Force issued 21 recommendations that, as a whole, would put New York on a path toward ending the era of test-and-punish. Some 96 percent of students in public education attend traditional public schools. Parents and teachers are running out of patience with the pace of change. They expect the recommendations to be adopted by the Regents with fidelity — immediately. That should be the commissioner’s focus," stated Magee. 

Russell Bell of Buffalo is a parent of three children attending the King Center Charter School.  Russell traveled to Albany to participate in the rally. He tells WBFO News inner-city parents need charter options for their child's success.

"You need smaller classrooms, you need teachers who take a little special interest -- you need those resources," said Bell.

12th annual Charter Advocacy Day, co-hosted by the New York City Charter School Center and the Northeast Charter Schools Network.
Credit Photo coutresty of Northeast Charter Schools Network

WBFO asked Bell and Kirkwood about their reaction to Commissioner Elia's appearance and support at the rally. 

"When you see that many kids, with that much energy -- you would be crazy not to be a part of that," replied Bell. 

"To have a public figure come and support, it just kind of really validates we are not in this by ourselves," responded Kirkwood.