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Public does not favor charter expansion, poll finds

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Several UFT teachers holding signs that say "Stop charter expansion"

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s plan to lift the state’s charter school cap and significantly expand the number of charter schools operating in New York City is badly out of step with the wishes of state residents, according to a new poll by Hart Research Associates.

The poll of 801 registered New York voters from Feb. 3-6 found that 79% oppose plans to increase the number of charter schools in New York City and shift resources away from public schools. Opposition was overwhelming across all parts of the state, among both Democrats and Republicans, and across all racial groups.

“Parents and the community really do not want an expansion of charter schools at this time,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said during a Feb. 9 press briefing via Zoom to announce the poll results.

Pollster Geoff Garin, who discussed the survey at the press briefing, said 81% of voters said the state’s educational emphasis should be on “strengthening neighborhood public schools,” while just 15% said the emphasis should be on increasing charter schools.

When asked about their top education priorities, 94% of the voters polled said they want to see expanded literacy programs for struggling students; 92% want more access to career and technical education programs that prepare students for jobs and 88% would urge elected leaders to address shortages of teachers, school counselors and nurses in public schools. Just 7% of voters listed expanding charters as one of their top two priorities.

Garin added that 78% of voters in the poll were less favorably disposed to charter schools because they said they don’t educate all students and aren’t transparent about their operations and their funding.

Mulgrew attributed the widespread community opposition to charter expansion to the public’s understanding that charter schools “are not serving the neediest children, while public schools take all children with open arms.” Corporate charters, he said, are concerned primarily with “real estate and making a profit.”

The chairs of the Senate Education Committee and the Senate New York City Education Committee, who will both be involved in negotiating the final budget with Hochul, have joined with community opponents of the proposed charter expansion.

“We see an immediate and broad pushback to the governor’s charter proposal,” said New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta.

Grassroots opposition from parents, educators and students to Success Academy co-locations in two Queens school buildings and one school campus in the Bronx led the city Department of Education to withdraw those proposals in mid-January before they could be voted on by the Panel for Educational Policy.

Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz apparently was undeterred by the stinging defeats. A day prior to the poll’s release, she reportedly told State University of New York officials — who oversee the awarding of charters — that she would be seeking co-locations in two other Queens school districts for one of her Brooklyn schools under a loophole that allows the opening of one elementary school, one middle school and one high school in different locations all under one charter.

Related Topics: Charter Schools