Feb. 22, 2023 By Ethan Stark-Miller
A week after Mayor Eric Adams appeared to publicly waver on his support for charter schools during a joint state legislative budget hearing, he firmly committed to backing the controversial schools during a Wednesday radio interview.
“Yes, I support charter schools,” Adams said in response to a question from WABC host Sid Rosenberg on whether he backs the publicly funded privately run schools, while calling into his show on Feb. 22.
“I have never wavered on my support of all schools in general, but specifically, with your answer, charter schools,” he added.
Adams repeated a line he’s been using over the past week that he supports “successful schools” no matter if they’re a charter, public or private school. He added that charter schools in particular have gotten an undeserved bad wrap, when he’s seen successful and failing iterations of both charter and public schools.
“Many people forget that charter schools are public schools and what we [are] supposed to be doing, we should be looking at the successful schools and scale them up, duplicate them, not tear them down,” Adams said.
“And some of the terminology that was used to describe charter schools, you threw them all into one bucket and just attack just the name of the type of schools,” he continued. “We should not be saying that schools are bad just because of the types of name that they’re called. I have been in good district schools. I have been in good charter schools and I’ve been in failing charter schools and failing district schools.”
The previous week, in his testimony to Albany lawmakers about Governor Kathy Hochul’s $227 billion executive budget for the coming fiscal year, Adams lamented the potential cost of complying with one of the governor’s proposed measures to lift the cap on new charter schools in New York City — putting 85 previously unavailable charters up for grabs in the five boroughs — and didn’t take a position on whether he supports the schools. The proposal would only lift the cap in the city, which currently stands at 275 charters — that are all currently authorized, but the state limit of 460 charters wouldn’t change.
It also calls for reissuing roughly 20 charters to schools that closed or had their licenses revoked, known as “zombie schools.”
Opponents of charter schools argue they take away already scarce resources from the city’s public school system. A group of parent advocates rallied against lifting the cap outside of Governor Kathy Hochul’s Midtown office on Tuesday.
When it comes to the price tag, the mayor said raising the charter cap will cost the city an estimate of over $1 billion, which would include the expense of citing the new schools and paying per student tuition.
During the February hearing, state Senator John Liu (D-Queens) — chair of the upper chamber’s New York City Education Subcommittee and a fierce charter school opponent — repeated Adams’ statements about the financial burden of lifting the cap and said that shows the mayor is also opposed to it.
“It’s something that I adamantly oppose, the lifting of that cap, and it’s good to hear that you kind of oppose it also,” Liu said.
“Is that a question?” the mayor asked in response.
“No, that’s not a question, you don’t have to say anything, you already said what you needed to say here,” Liu said.
But Adams cut Liu off, pushing back on the idea that he took any position on charter schools during the hearing.
“I don’t want that point to be giving the impression that I took a position on it,” Adams said. “I’m clear on scaling up successful schools, and I’m not attached to charter, district, public, [or[ private.”
According to a report from the New York Post last week, Adams quickly reaffirmed his support for charter schools during a press availability following the budget hearing.
James Merriman, CEO of the NYC Charter School Center — a pro-charter organization, applauded the mayor for his clear statements of support for charter schools in the Feb. 22 radio interview.
“The mayor’s comments show leadership in action: he is, and always has been, focused on whether schools are getting stuff done, regardless of governance structure,” Merriman said in a statement to amNewYork Metro.
Mayor Adams’ focus on results, not systems and bureaucracies, and his strong support for all public schools – district and charter – is a path others should take,” he added.