Are Charter Schools for the Wealthy Too?

When it comes to education, should choice be everyone’s right?


That is one of the many debates stirred up by the approval of Upper West Success Academy, a charter school set to open on the well-off Upper West Side of New York City.  For the first time, Eva Moskowitz will expand her elite network of charter schools, Harlem Success Academy, into a neighborhood that is not predominantly “low income.”


Although Upper West Academy was unanimously approved by the State University of New York’s Board of Trustees in October, a fierce debate has emerged.  People are asking whether the Upper West Side (District 3), a district that contains some of the highest-performing schools and most affluent zip codes in the city, needs a charter school.


Based on sheer numbers, District 3 does need Upper West Success Academy.  According to the New York Times, 357 families applied to the Academy since October. Two-thirds of these applicants live in District 3, the relatively wealthy district stretching from 59th Street to 122nd Street on the West Side of Manhattan.  Fourteen percent of applicants live in Harlem, home to the first three Success Network schools, and another 10 percent live in the Bronx, where the network just opened a school this year.


Noah E. Gotbaum, president of the District 3 community education council, claims that despite these numbers, the Academy is not necessary.  “In Harlem, there was some need and desire and interest in charter schools,” he said. “We don’t need more options here. We have options. We have great schools.”


However, every great public school on the Upper West Side is overcrowded, and the terrific private schools in the area cost upwards of $30,000 a year.  This leaves only one more option, the remaining, failing local public schools.  Thus, as Moskowitz said, “It’s hardly surprising that Upper West Side parents are lining up for a high performing charter school.”


Why should parents on the Upper West Side be forced to spend college tuition for their kindergarten-aged children, just to alleviate the over-crowding in their district?  Further, forcing parents whose children cannot fit into the “good” public schools to turn to private schools only continues the indirect segregation of the city’s children.  


In addition to providing an alternative for some parents who may not have good choices, new charter schools in any neighborhood also provide needed competitive pressure within the public school system.  Charter schools are smaller in size and scope, allowing them to innovate in ways that large public schools are unable to do.  Rather than discourage charter school growth, public education leadership should view them as partners and collaborate with them to improve district practices and education for all students.


The local community education council, which represents District 3 public school parents, continues to mobilize council members and state senators in fighting this charter school.  Concerns that Upper West Success Academy will siphon middle and upper class families from schools that need them for stability is preventing the community from realizing that school choice for all is a good thing.  The Academy, and its future students, deserve a chance at success.


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jane richmond
jane richmond6 years ago


Tim Cheung
Tim C7 years ago


Rose N.
Past Member 7 years ago

Thank you for posting.

Lika S.
Lika P7 years ago

In this day and age, I really think charter schools are the way to go. The traditional school system is failing our students.

I also think more families should explore the virtual schools, which are also chartered public schools. Each state should have a Virtual Academy, such as Wisconsin Virtual Academy (WIVA) and each state should have one that is a Virtual Learning, such as Wisconsin Virtual Learning (WVL). Please look them up, they're a great alternative, and seriously? I think they offer better education and it also helps parents bond better with their kids, if they haven't already. With unemployment so high, may as well use the time to your advantage.

How do they get paid? Same as your regular school. Rather than a library fee, there is a technology fee. So, if you qualify for free or reduced lunch, you may end up with a subsidiary to help pay your online bill.

Hope this helps!

Lauren A.
Lauren A7 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Alice H.
Alice Hendry7 years ago

Yes, I think they should fix the public school and make more space in them. I can understand why parents will vote for charter schools since there is no overcrowding. But plenty money has been given to schools but as always doesn't reach them. Always someone making a buck on the side.

Cynthia W.
Cynthia Williams7 years ago

I would to inform those of you who don't like charter schools,these students do better than others in the "public school" system.My child is attending a charter school and has had a great experience.Something that he would not have had in the underfunded NC school system.By the way,charter schools in NC do not receive funding from the state.

Susan T.
Susan T7 years ago

I totally agree with Jerry Mastriano (comment @ 7:53 pm)

Charter schools cherry pick their students, taking only the brightest and those with no behavioral problems or extra needs. Their performance is NO better than public schools once this is taken into consideration. It's a clever hoax.

Instead of pumping money into a for profit system, whose goals are to make a profit first then be a great school - why not take a hard look at what is wrong in the public schools that have a poor record? If there are good public schools nearby, it is obviously NOT the case that the public school model is a failure. If the school is overcrowded, how about a new PUBLIC school rather than a charter school? If the teachers are struggling see if they need assistance or if they need to be replaced. If some of the kids are from poor neighborhoods do they need extra programs - breakfast, conflict resolution classes, or field trips to see people working in professional jobs for inspiration? FIGURE IT OUT

By promoting charter schools, we will eventually turn the public schools into nothing but a dumping ground for students with poor academic achievement, learning disabilities or serious behavior problems. Thomas Jefferson is turning over in his grave.

Diana S.
Diana S7 years ago

Does District 3 have any of those "other, failing public schools?" If so, why don't they just fire everyone who works in the failing schools, and replace them with high-performing teachers and administrators, first? Or perhaps they can build new schools in the district??

I realize New York City is uber-developed to begin with (I was born there), but two whole vacant floors of a skyscraper would make a great primary school, or math/science focused high school (or both, depending on the square footage).

Ultimately, SOMEone is doing SOMEthing to give New York City one more GOOD school, which cannot be anything but a very, very GOOD thing, so quitcher bitching!

Betsy M.
Betsy M7 years ago

For-profit schools do not have education, community or children as their priority.