Charter school champion Michael Bloomberg on Wednesday announced an “historic” $750 million initiative to entrench and expand the sector across 20 metro areas, including New York City, over the next five years.
Bloomberg Philanthropies, the former three-term city mayor’s charitable arm, will “support the success and growth of existing charter and autonomous schools, open new high-quality charter schools, and create city- and state-level conditions that will help sustain this progress,” according to a release.
Calling American public education “broken,” Bloomberg contended that charter schools serve as educational oases amid an otherwise bleak schooling landscape.
“The pandemic hasn’t just underscored that reality — it has made it worse, and the remedy isn’t more tinkering around the edges,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “The future of our country depends on bold changes to education.”
The organization cited grim academic metrics — especially for low-income minority kids — that have decayed still further in the wake of COVID-19.
“For example, more than half of third graders in predominantly Black and Latino schools tested at least two grade levels behind in math and reading than pre-pandemic,” the release stated.
The organization argued that charter schools were better able to respond to pandemic challenges because of their independence.
The autonomous schools were equipped to “provide real-time instruction, check-in regularly with students, and monitor attendance,” the group said.
City public schools have shed students in recent years while the charter sector has enlarged.
In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg said the funds will seek to bolster existing charter school networks and seed new ones.
“We will also fund work to strengthen schools’ data systems, train and develop principals and teachers, and study what is working well to develop best practices for the nation,” he wrote.
Bloomberg, who backed charter school expansion as mayor, cited the sector’s performance during his time in office.
“Notable growth occurred among Hispanic and Black charter students in poverty, who posted stronger growth compared to their counterparts in traditional public schools, the release said.
State law has currently capped New York charter school expansion, while political backing varies in other areas across the nation.
Mayor de Blasio openly prioritized traditional public schools during his terms and routinely skirmished with the city’s leading operator, Success Academy.
Teachers unions have also resisted charter school cultivation, arguing that they divert funds from traditional public schools.
Success Academy founder Eva Moskowitz lauded Bloomberg’s initiative in a statement.
“This investment will be a beacon for what is possible, what educational excellence looks like,” she said.
Bloomberg’s group will select areas that receive funding based on a number of factors — including their size and ability to produce reliable operators and regulators.
Charter schools are publicly funded but operate outside the purview of local educational authorities.