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As rally kicks off, some charter school operators publicly opt out

Saying that today’s rally to support charter schools “sends entirely the wrong message,” a group of charter school advocates is publicly opting out.

In an open letter, five charter school operators and two people who help charter schools operate say they disagree with the premise of the rally, to send a strong message to Democratic mayoral frontrunner Bill de Blasio that he should support the city’s charter sector. They say they would rather wait to see what de Blasio does if he is elected and build a relationship with him then than take to the streets against him now.

“First, such a march seems at best premature,” the letter reads. It adds, “Second, if we focus on the substance of Mr. de Blasio’s platform, it would seem that there is much to celebrate, not protest.”

While the signatories say they disagree strongly with de Blasio’s plan to charge rent to some charter schools in public space, they agree with his stances on pre-kindergarten, after-school programs, and reducing economic inequality.

All of the signatories are from independent charter schools, which unlike charter management organizations have not played a central role in organizing today’s rally. In fact, the rally has drawn out longstanding tensions within the city’s charter sector between CMOs, which are more likely to have gotten support from advocacy groups to treat charter schools as a political strategy, and independent schools, which operate without that support and are less to have been given free public space by the Bloomberg administration. A similar rally last year revealed the same tensions.

Rafiq Kalam Id-Din, the founder of Brooklyn’s Teaching Firms of America Charter School and the first signatory on today’s letter, said other charter school operators had told him they might still sign on. Others said they agreed but did not want to stand publicly against colleagues within the sector, he said.

The letter does not suggest that charter schools simply sit back and let de Blasio enact policy without their influence. But it says a confrontational march — which Republican Joe Lhota plans to attend — is not the right approach.

“Instead of inviting our parents to protest the very candidate many of them likely voted for in the Democratic Primary, we’d like to invite the candidates to tour our schools and meet with our students and families,” the letter says.

The complete letter is below:

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