Rochester charter schools are asking legislators for equal funding

Nov 29, 2017

Credit Caitlin Whyte / WXXI News

The Rochester charter school community came together Wednesday morning to call on elected officials for more funding for their schools.

Those who spoke said Rochester charter schools get 68% of what districts get from the state, and that they shouldn’t have to fight for equal funding.

Duncan Kirkwood, Western New York Advocacy Manager for the NorthEast Charter Schools Network said its time charter schools worked together to ask for their fair share.

"We need to start building this charter movement where when there’s a deal, our lawmakers know that the Buffalo, the Rochester, the Syracuse charter schools, they’re going to stand up and fight."

In addition to being underfunded, Kirkwood said a lot of the money they do have doesn’t even make it to the classroom, and needs to be used on things like building maintenance.

He said the divide between charter and district schools is something that can be fixed.

"I have found that in cities where the teachers union is largely run by white suburban citizens, there is a larger divide between district and charter schools. In cities like Atlanta, the district schools and the charter schools work hand in hand together. They do professional development together, they do training together. They try things out in the charter school and then if it works, they bring it into the district school. So there’s not this divide everywhere, we have allowed that divide to be created."

But Kirkwood said the lack of funding isn’t necessarily anyone’s fault, he said lawmakers in Upstate New York don’t push hard enough for funding because the charter school community here doesn’t push them enough.

Assemblymember Harry Bronson said when it comes to funding; primary focus is on public school districts.

"We have a vision of education that, we need to educate every one of our students and we have to make sure education is accessible to every one of those students. So my first priority is to make sure we are fully funding the traditional public schools like the Rochester City School District."

But Bronson said he’s always open to discussion, saying education is the great equalizer.

He said he does not support the privatization of public school system, but is also interested in children getting the best education they possibly can.

A number of teachers at the event as well as students shared their experiences at local charter schools, advocating for more support.

Some younger students dressed up as super heroes, asking lawmakers to be "heroes" for charter school education.