Governor David Paterson and Malcolm Smith, the state Senate majority leader, are back in good favor with their long-lost charter school friends. Smith has just announced a plan to counteract a budget freeze that took the schools by surprise earlier this year, by sending the schools a one-time $30 million grant.
The grant is less than the $51 million that charter schools were slated to lose after legislators axed planned funding increases in their recent budget deal. And it will expire at the end of next year, leaving supporters to wage a new fight over funds then. But a source familiar with the plan who is a supporter of charter schools said that $30 million will be enough to help schools that had been imagining slashing after-school programs and turning down extra staff they’d already hired for next year.
Smith announced the planned injection just now at a charter school lottery in Harlem, which Philissa is covering. The lottery is the annual event for the former City Council member Eva Moskowitz, who runs the Success Charter Network in Harlem. Harlem Success is expecting more than 5,000 parents at the lottery, which will determine which children are selected to attend the schools.
Philissa reports that charter school supporters attending the lottery lit up in smiles when Smith made the announcement. “Malcolm came through, in the end, Malcolm and the governor,” Joe Williams, executive director of a lobbying group that supports charter schools, Democrats for Education Reform, told me on the phone just now.
I first reported on the possibility that charter schools could get a rescue from the funding freeze earlier this month, after supporters sent out a hopeful note to teachers and principals. The New York City Center for Charter School Excellence, a city lobbying group for charter schools, had been urging teachers and staff at charter schools to pelt Smith and Paterson with faxes and letters declaring their disappointment with the budget. Smith and Paterson were both seen as strong allies of charter schools when they took their new positions, and the freeze came as a major disappointment to charter school activists.