New York City educators, guardians and students rallied at City Hall Park to call on legislators to to reissue charters for schools that were previously closed, known as “zombie” charters as well as open more available charter school seats in the city.
The March 16 rally occurred as discussions regarding the New York State budget are underway, with only two more weeks left before it is finalized.
Because of the statutory “charter school cap” currently enforced in both the city and the state, currently no new charter schools are allowed to open despite six years of straight growth in charter school enrollment and an increasing demand from guardians.
Opening and reviving these “zombie” charter schools would keep the charter cap intact, but would also allow a select number of community-based charters to open in place of previously closed schools – many of which are in the process of state approval or are already approved.
“Simply put, reviving ‘zombie’ charters is a no-brainer,” said James Merriman, CEO of the NYC Charter School Center. “New York City families deserve to have high-quality school options available for their children, no matter their income or what neighborhood they’re from. Reissuing previously closed charters offers a commonsense solution to bring more great school seats to the communities that need them most. With so many talented, proven and diverse school leaders ready to open their doors, reviving these charters is a win for communities, a win for students, and a win for legislators working to deliver for their constituents.”
Other charter school leaders as well as students, similarly voiced the need to revive “zombie” charters, as they believe these schools overwhelmingly serve and empower students of color and those facing poverty across NYC.
“It is always so important to hear from our young people, to hear what the experience of going to school can actually do for them and the impact it can have in their lives,” said Crystal McQueen Taylor, Chief Advocacy Officer of StudentsFirstNY. “Schools are going above and beyond every day to meet the needs of kids. Families, particularly in Black and Brown communities in the outer boroughs [have] been forced so long to deal with scarcity. There are not enough great seats for the families who are looking for that.”
Student speakers also testified to how the charter system helped them advance in life and gain college and career opportunities that they may have never been eligible for or even interested in before their experiences within the charter school system.
“Because MESA’s (Math, Engineering and Science Charter Academy) main priority is to personally know each and every one of their students and provide them with resources and opportunities that are tailored to each student’s goals and passions, that allows us to make dreams become a reality rather than a distant visual,” said one student. “I am a product of MESA’s incredible support.”
Mayor Eric Adams recently came out in favor of reviving “zombie” charters while testifying at a legislative hearing in Albany, saying he was in favor of getting “zombie charters back on line.”
Merriman also expressed some optimism about how state legislators and public servants would move on with “de-zombifying” charters.
“The fact is, legislators – more and more – are in a world in which they run into people whose kids go to charters, whose relatives go to charters whose friend’s kids go to charters,” said Merriman to amNew York. “So I think the comfort level is increasing year by year by year.”