the facility factor

Charter school rent costs to hit $32 million by next summer

PHOTO: Jessica Glazer

The costs of last year’s battle over charter-school space are becoming clearer to the de Blasio administration.

The city’s tab for charter school rent is estimated to exceed $32 million by next summer, a spokeswoman for the city budget office confirmed Monday. The sum is the first clear indication of the price of state legislation passed in April 2014 that was meant as a rebuke of Mayor Bill de Blasio and his plans to end the city’s policy of giving charter schools free space in school buildings.

The city’s bills will grow as new charter schools open and existing schools expand. Just how costly they get depends on the outcome of a new set of political battles: One involving the state’s charter-school cap, and the other being the de Blasio administration’s ability to find public space for new charter schools, a move that cuts costs but alienates political allies.

“It’s starting out relatively small,” Raymond Domanico, director of education research at the Independent Budget Office, said of the city’s charter school rent bill. “But depending on what happens with the charter cap, this thing is only going to grow over time.”

State law allows for up to 25 more charter schools to open in the city, a restriction lawmakers are expected to address over the final six weeks of the state legislative session, which ends in June. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed increasing the cap by 100 schools for the entire state, while the United Federation of Teachers, de Blasio, and Chancellor Carmen Fariña have said the cap should not be lifted.

More schools means bigger bills for the city, which must provide new and expanding charter schools with free public space, or cover their rent in private facilities. And even if lawmakers don’t raise the cap, rental costs are still expected to soar in future years, as 46 existing charter schools add seats and the remaining new schools open.

Next year’s estimated costs, $22.4 million, are more than double what the city is spending this year, according to the spokeswoman. The department will begin making those payments this month, but officials have stayed mum until the release of new budget documents last week about how much the new law would cost the city.

The budget department spokeswoman said Monday that the city will have spent $10.2 million on charter-school rent this year. Most of that — $5.4 million — will cover rent at former Catholic school buildings that are housing three Success Academy charter schools whose co-locations the de Blasio administration nixed last year, setting off a showdown with Success CEO Eva Moskowitz that culminated in the rent legislation. Success Academy and the city reached the pricey lease agreement last April separate from the new legal process.

The other $4.8 million the city is spending this year will go to schools that have appealed for rent help through a process set up in the law. A Chalkbeat analysis indicated those costs could have risen to nearly $10 million.

With spending projections set to hit $32 million by the end of the next fiscal year, the city is on pace to hit a $40 million spending thresh hold by the 2016-17 school year, after which state funds will be provided to help alleviate the growing costs.

The City Council will hold hearings on the budget before a final version is adopted in June. An education committee hearing is scheduled for May 28, and the new fiscal year starts July 1.

Correction: An earlier version misstated the number of charter schools allowed to open in New York City. 


Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.