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An Open Letter to the Public Marching, in a Different Direction October 8, 2013

Today, several charter schools will march to City Hall to protest potential education policies espoused by Mayoral Candidate Bill de Blasio. We, the undersigned, a group of independent charter schools, feel strongly that such an action is wholly unwarranted, and if left unrebutted, could easily be construed as representing the consensus of the majority of the public charter school sector. Nothing could be further from the truth: the majority of public charter schools will not be participating in this march, nor do they support it. Instead, a consensus of independent charter schools and charter management organizations seek constructive dialogue with each of the candidates. Instead of inviting our parents to protest the very candidate many of them likely voted for in the Democratic Primary, wed like to invite the candidates to tour our schools and meet with our students and families. Instead of opposition and protest, we seek unity around the singular issue that everyone involved agrees on: all of our Citys children deserve a world class education, and providing such must be our top priority, by any means necessary. We feel that this march sends entirely the wrong message for two important reasons: First, such a march seems at best premature. It is important to keep in mind that there is a wide gap between stumping and governing. Sound bites do not equal legislation. Given this reality, it is difficult to know exactly what such a march is protesting. To be sure, charging public charter schools for co-locations in public school buildings for serving their public school students sounds counterintuitive: never before has any public school been charged rent for serving public school students. We can see no reason why that should start now. The mere fact that some charter schools raise significant private funds (and to be sure some of us raise barely any funds at all), should not be used as justification for charging public schools rent to co-locate in public school buildings. A number of public schools across the City (e.g. Anderson, P.S. 6, P.S. 290, P.S. 87, etc.), raise millions of dollars through private sources, and like us, these schools should not be asked to pay rent either. In truth, such contributions put into action the very strategy Mr. de Blasio seeks to deploy across his platform: ask the wealthy (private donors) to give a little more (donations) to help those who have less (73% of charter school students qualify for Title I poverty aid). Such supporters of our public schools should be applauded (and encouraged to do more). Second, if we focus on the substance of Mr. de Blasios platform, it would seem that there is much to celebrate, not protest. A major pillar of his campaign has been a focus on the 99%, the same commitment embedded deep within the missions of nearly every public charter school (as well as the Charter Schools Act itself). Many charter schools (including ours) already advocate for the very initiatives he champions: quality Pre-K for every student; wider availability of out-ofschool time academic and enrichment programs; and high quality instruction that prepares students for college and career success. We even share a similarly strong commitment to join our voices to those exhorting an increase investment of resources to improve the attendant socio-economic indicators that so dramatically impact our students success in the classroom: quality employment for their parents, affordable housing for their families, and safe neighborhoods for their community. Tens of thousands of constituents across our City have children who attend and love our public charter schools, and tens of thousands more would like the opportunity to send their child to

one. It is our hope that the next Mayor will see the support, improvement and growth of the public charter schools as a part of their mandate, and that they will partner with us to help ensure a world-class education for every student. Whoever wins will find charter school leaders from across the city (particularly the undersigned), fiercely dedicated, diligent and ready to work, unapologetically committed to doing whatever it takes to serve our students, families and communities. At the end of the day, this march does not represent the will or voice of the vast majority of the public charter schools across the City. We hope that this letter clarifies our perspective, and we look forward to working with whomever the next Mayor will be to continue and advance our vital work together to give our Citys most at risk children the best possible education. Sincerely,
Rafiq R. Kalam Id-Din II, Esq. Founder and Managing Partner Teaching Firms of AmericaProfessional Prep Charter School Brooklyn, NY Stacey Gauthier Principal The Renaissance Charter School Jackson Heights, NY

Dr. Richard Welles Board President Academy of the City Charter School Queens, NY

Karen Jones Academic Leader Bedford Stuyvesant New Beginnings Charter School Brooklyn, NY

Nicholas Tishuk Principal and Co-Founder Renaissance Charter HS for Innovation Harlem, NY

Steve Zimmerman The Open School Project Long Island City, NY

Dirk Tillotson Executive Director NY Charter School Incubator