Why Parents Consider Charter Schools

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[Fleming's View]

Nobody really thinks that Albany will come to their senses, and pass an effective state budget that will give New York state children a chance at a good education.

Not only did the bigwigs in the education here bobble the ball when the Obama administration offered millions to remedying some of the defects in our schools, to lift the standard of achievement statewide. Now, this charter school dilemma comes before the wise sages in the state capital at a time while greed and political pressure have dulled any progressive vision from any representative of both parties.

This is not a great time for reform. Reform of anything. Bad economic times have killed the will for change or courage to bolster an increase in charter schools and improve our standing in the federal Race to the Top application competition. A few days ago, the Democratic- led State Senate approved legislation to double the number of charter schools, by a 45-15 vote, a significant victory for its prime backer, Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson of Brooklyn.

He turned aside a wave of controversial attacks by the union-funded lobby to kill all support for charter schools.

When a number of Democrats joined the Republicans, coming late to the party, the  power of the union-funded Working Families Party, which had received $243,000 from the United Federation of Teachers and the state teachers union since 2008, threatened all who added their votes to the charter school cause. It was a litmus test for any politicians who bucked the might of union clout. At election time, the unions said they would have long memories and campaign against the renegades who would not be bought.

Many of the city's Democratic politicians, including Senate President Malcolm Smith, did not like the excessive pressure put on the opposing public officials. State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver kept looking over his shoulder at the rising tide of union oppression, maintaining a lukewarm attitude at getting anything done. Like everybody in Albany political circles, they take the threat very seriously by the state teachers union that they will campaign, with their $10 million war chest, against any Senate Democrats who cast their vote in favor of the charter school legislation.

Parents are watching the political games as the critics yell about more accountability and enrollment of more special education students. One of the major critics against the legislation, State Senator Bill Perkins (D-Harlem) said the entire matter involved greed. "This is like a race to the trough," Perkins said. "It is more like folks seeing an opportunity to get some public dollars."

And he is right. Everybody on both sides wants to collect some public money.

However, all the parents know is that the charter schools are producing results in educational achievement and soaring graduation rates with competent students who can compete in any college. They read the newspapers and magazines. They see the testimonials of the parents of charter schools students. Although the critics would love to say that charter schools are getting a free ride, what they don't say is that the schools have to meet the same standards as their public school counterparts.

They also must meet the requirements of the city Board of Education and the State of Regents, and the charters get less money than the those of the public sector.

With the public schools about to be dealt a near-fatal blow with the axing of a proposed 6,414 teachers due to the $9.2 billion state budget deficit, the public and the parents are taking at the fiscal strategies of UFT union president Michael Mulgrew and other public sector union leaders.

They are also taking a second look at the weak-kneed politicians who refuse to stand up to the lobbies and public interest groups to fight for New York State.

Parents, remember them when you go to the ballot box.  

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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