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Charter School Leaders Rally for Support in New York City

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Cross-posted from District Dossier

Charter school leaders and supporters in New York City marched across the Brooklyn Bridge today in order signal to Bill de Blasio, the frontrunner for the city's mayoral nomination, that he should support the city's charter sector.

De Blasio, who won the Democratic primary last month, has expressed reservations about the growth of the charter sector in the city, saying that they have a role to play but should not be favored over other public schools. De Blasio has said that charter schools should be charged rent for their buildings and that charter schools should not be co-located with regular public schools.

That troubled many, including Eva Moskowitz, who runs Success Academy Public Charter Schools, and who sent a letter to parents who attend those schools asking them to come. "Your child's education is threatened," the letter read, according to the New York Post. "Our very existence is threatened. Opponents want to take away our funding and our facilities. These attacks are a real danger—and we cannot stand idly." 

Outgoing mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, had supported policies that encouraged the growth of the charter sector, which now includes some 180 schools. 

Thousands of people participated in the rally, according to the New York Times. Republican mayoral candidate Jon Lhosa attended the rally in support of charter operators. 

Nina Rees, the president and chief executive officer of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said in a public email that she would join the rally. She said that the protesters "want to ensure that public charter schools receive the same access to school buildings as all other public schools." From the email:

Measures proposed by city officials—ending the city's innovative co-location of charter schools with traditional public schools and a shift to charging charter schools rent for space in public school buildings— would limit options for the families that need them most. A moratorium on co-location could eliminate more than 15,000 new charter school seats annually, and a rent charge could force charters to turn away 50,000 waitlisted families.

There is not a national consensus about whether or not charter schools should pay rent. In Memphis, for instance, charter schools must pay rent if they are authorized by the school district but not if they are authorized by the state. Some charters in Philadelphia received shuttered school buildings without having to pay rent. 

Some charter school leaders  actively separated themselves from the rally, according to GothamSchools. A letter from several charter school operators emphasizes that not every charter school in the city participated in the rally, and advocates for "constructive dialogue" with the mayoral candidates. The letter says the rally is premature. 

New York's mayoral election is scheduled for November 5. 

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