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A Father’s Message to Albany Lawmakers

I am the father of four young ladies. One is a university graduate, one is a junior in college, and the other two attend charter schools in the Bronx. My 17-year-old goes to the New York City Charter High School for Architecture, Engineering and Construction Industries, and my youngest is in first grade at Success Academy Bronx 4. I chose charter schools because where we live in the South Bronx, they are the best educational option for my children. Charters are giving my daughters opportunities they would never have in our neighborhood district schools.

But I worry how long they will have that advantage, because charter school students in New York City don’t get the same funding that other students do. Even though charter schools are public schools, they’ve been systematically shortchanged. Spending for district schools has gone up and up in New York City, while charter school funding has barely increased in the last five years.

Charters are giving my daughters opportunities they would never have in our neighborhood district schools.

Charter schools can’t continue to provide the level of education that families have come to rely on if they continue to lag further and further behind. On January 20, I traveled to Albany to talk with elected officials about this unfair funding formula and called on them to fix this educational injustice.

Like all public schools, charter schools rely on public dollars in order to function. They have been a godsend to families like mine who cannot afford to pay private school tuition or move to the suburbs, as affluent families do, to keep their children out of poor-quality district schools.

When my daughters — especially my 6-year-old, Jade — got into their charter schools, I was thrilled because I knew they would have the opportunity for a good education that our local schools did not provide. It was a relief to be out of that separate and unequal school system that left people in the South Bronx with nothing but failing schools.

But we found ourselves in another separate and unequal situation, because New York State, which is supposed to treat all citizens fairly, treats charters schools unfairly. I cannot understand why. Are my daughters and their classmates less deserving than the kids who go to the district school down the street?

In his State of the State Address last week, Gov. Cuomo said no, they are not. He called for unfreezing the funding formula that has been keeping aid for charter schools flat while district school aid has kept rising. But the governor cannot fix this injustice alone. He needs the cooperation of the Legislature.

That’s why I asked our elected officials to fight for funding parity for my daughters and for all charter school children. I told them about the educational opportunity that charter schools provide. I told them that charter schools are giving kids in the South Bronx a real chance, a real education. I asked them to imagine how much more charter schools could do for New York City children if they had equal funding. And I asked them to do everything in their power to make sure that every child benefits from the same funding, regardless of what type of public school they attend.

Written by James Evangelista January 27, 2016

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