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JLeslie's avatar

What do you think about the new Mayor of NYC wanting to close down charter schools?

Asked by JLeslie (57636points) March 3rd, 2014

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What’s your opinion? Do you think it is all politics? Do you feel Charter schools are a good thing?

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32 Answers

jca's avatar

I heard it was because he was supported by the teachers’ unions in his campaign. That’s why I hate politics.

stanleybmanly's avatar

To begin with, the mayor is closing down only 3 of the 183 charter schools in NYC. Of course its about politics- anything involving public money is ALWAYS about politics. Which brings us to the reason for viewing charter schools with necessary suspicion. Any scheme which diverts public funds away from the public schools and into for profit enterprises should be held suspect and rigorously examined. Big claims are always made for proposals that supposedly benefit the society while enriching their proponents, but charter schools rate exceptional scrutiny and rigorous verifiable proof of delivery, considering the stakes. I for one remain unconvinced.

JLeslie's avatar

@stanleybmanly The charter schools are non-profit. They basically still are public schools as far as I know. Right now it is just 3 schools, but it sounds like the Mayor has a basic philosophy against charter schools and the program in general is in jeopardy.

jca's avatar

It can be viewed as “outsourcing” which is sometimes known as privatizing. Outsourcing government jobs to the private sector.

zenvelo's avatar

I am suspicious of Charter Schools because I’ve never seen any demonstrative evidence that they do any better than a standard school. Yes, they can take over a school and improve it, but a school board and administration with a little backbone could do the same thing.

BeenThereSaidThat's avatar

All New York Mayors cater to the Teachers Union. They will fight to the death against Charter Schools and school vouchers. The State cares more about the teachers than they do the kids. sad.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Charters suck the funding from public schools, making them worse for the rest of us.

Charters, as @zenvelo noted, are not better than publics. In most cases – not all – they are pushing a religious agenda, which is (or should be) against the first amendment that is supposed to not have direct government support for religion.

And a lot of them are just poorly run, with no oversight.

Close them all. If you want to send your kids to a private school, then pay for it.

JLeslie's avatar

Religion? What?

KNOWITALL's avatar

@JLeslie Read below, it’s actually very cool in my opinion.

The academy, which opened in August at the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Campus of the San Antonio Jewish Community, is the first Texas charter to offer Hebrew and one of two charters awarded by the state in 2012 to open in a Jewish center. School officials have faced questions over their leasing arrangements and the populations they serve, but they say they are keeping religion out of the classroom and are focused on serving a diverse student body.
...

Peter Bezanson, superintendent of Great Hearts Texas, said there was no affiliation between Great Hearts and Temple Beth-El “except landlord and tenant.” Tracy Young, vice president for government affairs of the Texas Charter Schools Association, said that although few Texas charters reached leasing agreements with places of worship, they were often a logical choice. “You have a harder time going to an office building,” she said.

Ms. Davis said Kolitz’s leasing arrangement could change in coming years. Increased enrollment may prompt the school to search for a new building as it adds high school grade levels, she said. Demand has been significant so far, a development she attributes to the school’s reputation.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/18/us/trying-to-keep-religion-out-of-the-charter-school-classroom.html?_r=0

bolwerk's avatar

Concur with @zenvelo. I don’t really see anything inherently wrong with charter schools, other than that they don’t do anything a good public school can’t do. They’re privately owned entities with private business risk, which, all things being equal, means according to the expectations of liberals capitalism™ they’re going to be have higher costs than government-run schools. And, not least of all, the business people who want them expect a profit on top of overhead.

But maybe that would even be excusable if NYC weren’t already spending so much per student in the public schools. At this point, charter schools are just an easy way for connected business people to make some money off a municipal function that needs improvement no matter what.

JLeslie's avatar

I have always believed charter schools are public schools that are monitored by the public school system. The way I understood it, the charter schools have a different or specific philosophy, or concentration for students. I personally am a bigger fan of magnet schools than charter. I never for a second thought religion was in question, but @KNOWITALL‘s link gives me pause.

I have no doubt religion is not taught in the school in @KNOWITALL‘s link. I believe it and don’t question it. However, it is impossible not to think that Jewish families now have an opportunity for their Jewish kids to get free Hebrew lessons and be in an environment that probably is mostly Jewish kids. Is it a problem? I’m not sure. What’s the big deal to offer Hebrew? For all I know Dearborn, MI schools offer Arabic. Miami schools for sure offer Spanish. The languages partly reflect the population and partly the languages that will be useful for children.

If there was a greeat school in a Catholic church near me and I knew they did not teach religion or pray in school I would seriously consider it for my child. I trust the Catholics to respect my child’s religion. There is a risk if she is surrounded by Catholics and Catholicism that some might rub off somehow I guess? I assume the schoolroom doesn’t have any religious symbols in it. I grew up with 95% of my friends being Catholic, I’m still Jewish.

Look at the public school where I lived in TN. They taught the bible in literature class. They are a straight forward public schools and still want to squeeze in the bible. That really bothers me.

My Mormon friend said the public schools in Utah often have religion class taught adjacent to school property. It’s like walking over to another building on campus, but it is actually off campus. I’m fine with that. It isn’t a mandatory class.

Fundamentally I believe in public school education. I think it is part of what made America and other developed nations great. I don’t wantto take money from the public system, and I don’t believe in voucher money going to private schools. But, I think a lot of school districts suck. I think too many people in the education system don’t think out of the box and are resistant to change. Even regular public schools come down to the bottom line. They care about the money too.

I don’t really have a conclusion, I’m just trying to think it through.

Thanks for the answers so far.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@JLeslie I specifically used that example for you!

My theist friend’s daughter goes to a charter school in Colorado and she loves it compared to the public schools. I’ll try to get some details, but it was about freedom of curriculum I believe.

Strauss's avatar

There are pros and cons about charter schools. I have had extensive experience with charter schools, as all my children have attended them for at least part of their k-12 school experience. For the most part, my experience has been positive. That being said, charter schools generally receive funding from the school district on a per-student basis. As @stanleybmanly and others have stated, any program that takes public funds from a school district, whether that program is “for profit” or not, should be looked at closely.

Our public school district has an open enrollment policy, meaning that most students will have the opportunity to attend any of the schools in the district. Some are better than others, and some have special programs, such as STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Technology).

As my daughter makes the transition from middle school to high school, I am noticing that some of the programs once offered only by charter schools are now offered by the schools within the public school district.

JLeslie's avatar

I think all public schools receive money on a per student basis to some extent.

wildpotato's avatar

Seems like charters have had great success in certain areas. You guys make a valid point that this seems like nothing the public school system couldn’t do on it’s own, by massive changes in administration style – but does that ever actually occur much in practice? My sense from the Philadelphia schools, where many of my friends work, has been that it generally does not.

gorillapaws's avatar

I know one of the major criticisms of charter schools is they often exclude special education kids, which make all of their numbers look better because the costs and test averages aren’t being skewed by accommodating all students.

I graduated from a public magnet high school for the gifted. It was an amazing opportunity, made possible by hard working administrators and a phenomenal faculty. We cost our county half what they would have spent on us had we gone to our home district. I’m all in favor of PUBLIC magnate schools, but taking money out of the public system, to give to private companies and picking winners and losers with lotteries is the wrong approach to education.

JLeslie's avatar

@gorillapaws I had said the same, that I like magnet schools better, but I think some states, or maybe saying school districts is more accurate, don’t have them. When I was living in TN I don’t remember any parents talking about magnets. A large percentage of the population already is in private schools. This is one of the problems I think, turning around the public schools when the local community, especially those with some money, influence, and power, don’t value public education. I know when I lived in Palm Beach County, FL there were lots of magnet programs. Environmental science, foreign languange, performing arts, international baccalaureate, there are probably others. I’m thinking in the absence of the public schools creating magnets it leaves opportunity for private groups to create charter schools and the community must see it as an opportunity.

NYC has both I guess. My aunt and uncle both went to magnet schools in NYC back in the late 50’s and 60’s. Those schools still exist.

It’s impossible to force a district to have magnets I would assume. There is no federal mandate that I know of. I also assume magnets only pop up in very populated school districts. My town in TN and surrounding towns voted just over a year ago to split off from the county. My town has one elementary, one middle and no high school. We use the neighboring towns high school. I voted against it. If they actually follow through with this (it’s in the courts) the students where I lived will be in a mini small school district. The only chance of really specializing would be to move to a different school district or start a charter school with some sort of focus that many parents in the community are interested in. As I write this I realize just how much I prefer it done within the public system without charter schools, but I can see how charter schools can be appealing also.

bolwerk's avatar

In a sense, NYC may have nothing but magnet schools at the high school level. NYC high schools are a bit archaic and require students to apply and be accepted like colleges.

JLeslie's avatar

@bolwerk Yeah, my dad didn’t make it into Bronx Science, but my uncle did. My aunt made it into Music and Art high school. I actually think requiring kids to apply is perfectly reasonable. It’s high school, the schools are specialized. No reason to have a child who gets D’s in science go to Bronx Science just because they feel like it. They need to be able to do the work. Some magnet schools it might not matter if the children already have some skill in the area of concentration, but many of the magnet schools in NY it makes perfect sense to me. Although, I feel pretty sure my dad would have done just fine in Bronx Science. He has told me in the past that he doesn’t remember why he did poorly on the test. He doesn’t remember if he had a bad day, or didn’t finish it for some reason, he says he has a memory block about it. I think he probably could have asked to retest maybe if he had felt strongly about it.

In fact, in NY when my dad was a teen there were excellent city colleges where tuition was free. Where my dad went was considered the Harvard for the poor. Many city colleges around the country take almost any kid who lives in the area with very low standards or no standards to take classes. Hunter College in NYC was for the cream of the crop who applied. The top 8% got in according to my father. I don’t know how well respected that school still is. It isn’t free now, but still very very inexpensive. I think that is good too. A highly resoected college with very strict standards for whom is excepted so that poor children who excel academically can afford a college degree that is respected by Ivy League schools.

Elementary and even Jr. High is a different story regarding K-12. I know in Palm Beach county the magnet Elementary are done by lottery, although supposedly they do hold aside space for minorities.

bolwerk's avatar

City College was the “Harvard of the working class” or whatever until the 1970s. Hunter was a women’s school that went coed in the 1960s. Both went through a period of stagnation probably until the 2000s. Both are seen as reasonably respected now, but I think Hunter is probably considered the most prestigious public school in the city these days. However, as American public schools go, both are probably pretty well eclipsed in prestige by the likes of Berkeley, UCLA, and others.

gailcalled's avatar

^^ Among the others are U. VA, U. NC at Chapel Hill, and U. Michigan (particulary their Honors Program).

JLeslie's avatar

How can you compare UNC, UVA, MI, and some other public Ivy’s to Hunter? Have you seen the tuition difference? I’m not saying Hunter still carries the same status as back in the 60’s when my dad went, but if it still carries reasonable status it is there for the poor to get a great education when the other schools are ridiculously expensive.

It would be interesting to know what other cities have fairly prestigious colleges or universities that have extremely low or no tuition.

Edit: I looked up Hunter to see what the tuition is now. $3090.10 for 15 credit hours.

JLeslie's avatar

Ridiculously expensive is an overstatement, the in state tuition isn’t crazy high, but it is easily double what Hunter costs if not more. I’m not sure if the Hunter link is per semester or year. I assume semester.

gailcalled's avatar

@JLeslie; I was responding only to @bolwerk‘s comment: However, as American public schools go, both (referring to Hunter and City College) are probably pretty well eclipsed in prestige by the likes of Berkeley, UCLA, and others.

I was considering not costs but prestige.

One List of top public Ivies.
Slightly different one

bolwerk's avatar

@JLeslie: UNC, UVA, MI, U. Madison, and a few others are all considered top-tier public research universities. At this point, Hunter is perhaps trying to become one of them, maybe will become one of them, but isn’t there yet. That’s what the president of Hunter seems to be pushing for. There is something of a political spat about this precisely because going down that road probably detracts from the individual attention a teaching college or liberal arts college provides and research universities require expensive support facilities that increase tuition costs. To put it another way Hunter is more in the Cal State category rather than the U. Cal category. Maybe a better comparison would be Hunter is more akin to VA Tech or Mary Washington than UVA. I don’t know much universities that aren’t on one of the coasts.

I actually don’t see why CUNY, the umbrella NYC public university system, shouldn’t have room for a major public research campus. It could be Hunter, but it doesn’t have to be. There are several other 4-year schools in the city that can cater to people who are not qualified or interested in research schools, and there is a robust community college system for remediation. But it’s a little ridiculous for a city the size of New York to only have private institutions of that caliber, especially considering things like Bronx Science and Hunter High School are among the topic public schools in the USA.

JLeslie's avatar

I personally would not consider Hunter with UVA, UM, UW, either for a few reasons. One of which is outside of the northeast I think people are fairly unaware of the school, even if it is a good school. My only point was a good education for a very low price, making it available to low income.

The way it ties in for me, is it seems to me a lot of charter schools are popping up to help lower income. Or, is that incorrect?

SavoirFaire's avatar

“I personally would not consider Hunter with UVA, UM, UW, either for a few reasons.”

And if you read carefully, @JLeslie, you’ll see that this is exactly what @bolwerk and @gailcalled were saying. To say that Hunter and City College are “pretty well eclipsed in prestige by the likes of Berkeley, UCLA, and others” (where those others include UVa, UM, and UW) is to say that they should not be considered in the same class. It’s not that difficult to understand.

JLeslie's avatar

@SavoirFaire And, my point is those schools are easily double the price, that isn’t hard to understand for you, is it?

When I first wrote about Hunter I wrote, “I don’t know how well respected that school still is.” @bolwerk answered that for me, which I appreciate. You seem to be saying I have a hard time accepting that Hunter isn’t as prestigious as it once was. I’m fine with it. Doesn’t bother me in the least. I’m thinking more in terms of colleges in cities that have students who can barely read and write at high school level, but the school takes everyone that applies.

SavoirFaire's avatar

“You seem to be saying I have a hard time accepting that Hunter isn’t as prestigious as it once was.”

No. That is not what I said at all. How you manage to read so much into people’s responses I’ve never figured out. All I did was clarify what you had missed in previous comments. But I can see now that it’s a hopeless task.

JLeslie's avatar

LOL. @gailcalled had already clarified why she said what she said, which was fine too. I basically agreed with her about the prestige.

jca's avatar

I came upon this article which I posted on the Facebook Fluther group page a few days ago. For those of you who are not on FB or who are not part of that group, here’s the link. I did not read the article so unfortunately I can’t comment on it. If you don’t like the article, please don’t attack me, as I am just posting it for the sake of the discussion.

http://www.salon.com/2014/01/10/the_truth_about_charter_schools_padded_cells_corruption_lousy_instruction_and_worse_results/

bolwerk's avatar

If it wasn’t clear, my point was that CCNY was at one time a Berkeley-quality research school – completely free! After a period of serious academic and institutional stagnation, it is seen as a good school again, but it never re-entered that research university arena. Hunter traditionally was a teaching/liberal arts school for women, which after a period of stagnation is re-emerging as something more akin to a research campus but isn’t currently a major player in that arena. Nowadays Hunter is considered the best CUNY campus, not CCNY.

I think @JLeslie is actually right that it’s good to have these schools that are more affordable and focus on teaching, not just for students but for society. But New York City has several in that category. It doesn’t have a UCLA or Berkeley quality public campus though. Take “quality” to mean different, not worse or better.

And a political commentary on the matter is, I’m not sure New York education officials quite understand the distinction between research universities and teaching.

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