Funding of charter schools in New York was a hotly debated topic at the annual Legislative Breakfast last Saturday morning, and supporters of public education say they are unhappy with existing rules.
Under a New York state law passed in 1998, charter schools are independent public schools which are subject to renewal every five years, and are funded through public money. Charter schools receive tuition payments directly from the school districts where its students live.
The tuition rate is set by the state and varies from district to district. In Valley Stream, there are four children attending charter schools in District 30, which pays $19,277 per student, and two from District 13, with a tuition rate of $15,487 each.
Hempstead Town Councilman Jim Darcy, a former member of the state Assembly, said charter schools were approved to give children alternatives if they live in neighborhoods with failing public schools. He said providing those children with no alternatives would essentially condemn them to a life of poverty simply because of their zip code.
“Take a look at where charter schools are,” he said, adding that there are none in Valley Stream. “There are communities where charter schools are doing what they were intended to do.”
However, several people questioned why money should be taken away from public schools that are getting the job done, like in Valley Stream. Elise Antonelli, president of the Central High School District Board of Education and a trustee in District 30, noted that the law takes money directly from public education.
“In Valley Stream, there are no failing schools,” she said, “especially in District 30. Our schools are award winning.”
Meredith Brosnan, assistant superintendent for business in District 13, said two children just moved into the community who were already enrolled in a charter school. The district now has to pay their tuition from money that was budgeted for other purposes. “Right now, they are being funded just by taking lump sums out of the districts,” she said of charter schools.
Brosnan added that when a district doesn’t pay, the money is taken directly from its state aid.
Marijo Sensale, a resident of District 24, said that she chooses to live in the suburbs and pay high taxes to support opportunities for children in the community, such as extra-curricular activities and sports. She said she didn’t move to Valley Stream to filter money to charter schools.
Antonelli said she hopes that legislators would look to revise the charter school law, so public schools are not adversely affected. “It just diverts money from us,” she said. “There’s so much money that’s being diverted from schools now.”