With Gov. Andrew Cuomo emerging as a champion of charter schools, what does it mean for the 97 percent of students in New York who attend public schools?
Outside major cities, most people have never heard of a charter school. They are focused instead on their local public school, where the situation is often quite disturbing.
There are a lot of problems, including the botched rollout of the common core standards, but the key problem is funding. More than 90 percent of school districts now receive less operating aid from the state than they did five years ago. Some wealthy school districts are able to cope with less funding, but most districts have had to increase class size and make cuts to cuts to art, music and foreign language, as well as advanced placement and honors courses.
We now have two systems of education in New York: In prosperous communities, we have well-funded, high-performing schools; and in less prosperous communities all across the state, we have under-funded schools and struggling students.
This widening gap is the main reason New York's ranking for overall education performance has dropped from 8th in the nation when Cuomo took office to 20th today.
No one in Albany has a plan to address the funding inequality that is the root of this problem. Instead, the governor has chosen to focus on charter schools as if they were the answer to all problems.
In fact, Cuomo is exacerbating the problem with budget after budget, sticking districts with more and more mandates even as he starves them of more and more money.
And don't think this is a mistake on Cuomo's part - he is quite literally the governor of charter schools only and his plan is to make as many traditional public schools fail as he possibly can and hand them off to his charter school operator buddies and his Wall Street/hedge fundie buddies.
I think this is the piece that some people are missing with Cuomo's budgets and mandates - they're part of an intentional strategy to undermine and destroy the public school system in the state and bring privatization to areas outside of NYC.