Kudos to Governor Andrew Cuomo for proposing that the New York State legislature abolish the charter schools cap that limits the sector’s expansion in New York City. As a group, the city’s charters have long been high performers. Despite opposition from adults in the system – particularly the teachers’ union – we must never lose sight of what is most important: the students. Lifting the cap will help poor and minority students who need help the most.
Cuomo’s proposal is in direct contrast to the unwise decision made by Massachusetts voters to keep their charter school cap. Massachusetts has some of the highest-performing charters in the country. Why would people want to deny them to poor, minority kids in Boston, Springfield, Worcester, Lawrence, and other urban centers? Could it be because the Massachusetts Teachers Association spent millions of dollars misleading people, warning that charters would drain money from their school districts?
This is not the first time Governor Cuomo has stood up for public school choice and innovation. During his campaign, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he wanted to stop co-locating charters with traditional schools and start charging charters rent if they were in district buildings. He then withdrew permission for three charter schools to share space with traditional schools. In response, Governor Cuomo pushed through a budget agreement that required New York City to find space for charter schools inside public school buildings or pay much of the cost to house them in private space. The legislation also prohibited the city from charging rent to charter schools, something de Blasio had suggested. Governor Cuomo vowed to make sure the city’s charters had “the financial capacity and physical space and government support to thrive and grow.
Progressives have long supported charter schools. While Republicans were focused on vouchers, Democrats led the charge in early charter states: Minnesota, California, Massachusetts, and Colorado among them. President Bill Clinton proposed the first national charter school program in the 1990s, which has since provided $3 billion to start charter schools. President Barack Obama continued to support charters with his Race to the Top grants.
So Governor Cuomo stands in a long line of progressive, reform-minded Democrats who have had the courage to stand up to the teachers unions. For that, we applaud him.