Opinion

Placing New York City students on the path to possible

By Marcos Crespo |  

February 16, 2017 |  

(Darren McGee / Governor's Office)

Over the course of my life I’ve set foot in many classrooms in different cities, states and countries – from New York City to Florida to Puerto Rico to Peru. And as an elected official, I now regularly visit schools in the Bronx, my home borough.

While visiting this diverse array of school communities, I’ve learned that a one-size-fits-all formula for public education does not work. Different families have different needs, and it’s extremely important that parents are able to choose the school that works best for their children. That is why I support school choice in New York City, and that is why I joined hundreds of families in Albany on January 18 in support of the #PathToPossible vision to enroll 200,000 kids in public charter schools by 2020.

New York City’s low-income neighborhoods need more public education options. Far too many schools within these particular communities are not providing their students with a quality education. Furthermore, failing schools are not necessarily empowering their students to read or solve math problems at grade level, which, in turn, affects timely graduation and college readiness. To combat the status quo, families from all backgrounds and all boroughs should have access to more public schools, in this case charters. 

Charter schools have a major positive impact on New York City’s most underserved communities, giving low-income students of color a world class education, and providing a guide towards future success.

Within the city’s eight lowest performing school districts, composed primarily of black and Hispanic populations, students who attend public charter schools are 146 percent more likely to read and tackle math at grade level as opposed to their counterparts. The five public charter schools within the 85th Assembly District are no exception, as students are four times more likely to perform math on grade level, and three times more likely to read on grade level.

These numbers clearly demonstrate that public charter schools can be a critical part of the solution for New York City’s most needy populations. There’s only one problem: demand for these life changing schools is so high that it has become extremely difficult to accommodate every child who seeks a seat. The charter sector recently reached a milestone: over 100,000 students served every year, despite 44,000 children still on charter waitlists, including more than 3,000 in my district alone.

The #PathToPossible movement aims to open charter school classrooms to all of these students – plus thousands more who currently attend low performing schools – by doubling the size of the sector from 100,000 to 200,000 students by the year 2020. By providing the opportunity to 200,000 students, public charter schools could drive an educational renaissance within the city’s underserved communities, essentially eliminating the achievement gap between low-income children of color and their peers.

As leaders, we must now come up with a comprehensive plan to allow these schools to meet the demand from families. The #PathToPossible movement can only succeed if high-quality public schools have adequate resources to expand, including access to classroom facilities.

This was the message I delivered in Albany, standing proudly alongside colleagues from the state Legislature and hundreds of New York City parents. And this is the message I will keep sharing: Every family in New York City deserves great school options, and every child in the five boroughs deserves the chance to embark on the Path to Possible.

Marcos Crespo is the state Assemblyman for the 85th District in the Bronx, and the chairman of the Assembly’s Puerto Rican and Hispanic Task Force.

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