A Principal (and Former Union Insider) Reflects on 25 Years of NYC’s ‘Exhausting’ Charter Wars

The New York City Coalition of Community Charter Schools was established just as Mayor Bill de Blasio took office in 2014. Your school is a member and you serve on the board. You and others in the coalition visited City Hall several times to talk with the administration about more funding for independent charters, among other concerns. What was that like, and has that relationship been fruitful?

It was frustrating because several of us spent a lot of time meeting and really trying to talk about the charter movement in a different way. … I think that when de Blasio came in, he and the chancellor to some degree, painted all charter schools with a broad brush. And I think several of us came in (to City Hall) saying, ‘There’s many faces of this charter movement, and also several of your critiques of the charter movement may not be accurate.’ Renaissance, for example, does not “counsel out” poor-performing or unruly students and is committed to backfilling each open seat, no matter what grade level it is in. You can audit our records and you’ll see that. … Part of the conversation that we had was, if you really want to weed out the bad apples, don’t just look at charters, look across the board.

(The regular meetings between the coalition and the administration did have some tangible results, although the collaboration eventually dissolved. Charters, including Renaissance, were able to access grant money for middle schools and they were included in the mayor’s pre-K initiative. Gauthier says she was assured that children entering her school’s pre-k could move directly into kindergarten without going through the lottery.)

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