Democrats in NYC want more charter schools despite Albany cap, poll finds

Seventy percent of New York City Democrats support lifting the state cap and allowing new charter schools to open throughout the Big Apple, a poll released Friday reveals.

New York City has reached the limit set by the state Legislature for charter schools, blocking the opening of any more of the privately-run, publicly-funded alternative schools from opening.

The survey of 1,558 city Democrats was conducted by the Benenson Group — the polling firm that worked on former President Barack Obama’s campaigns — on behalf of the pro-charter advocacy group StudentsFirstNY.

The pro-charter views of such a majority of city Democratic voters is a stark contrast to Democratic lawmakers who run both houses of the state legislature. The United Federation of Teachers, which lobbies the state pols heavily, opposes any charter school expansion, claiming the mostly non-union alternative schools divert resources and students from their district public schools.

New York City Democrats have shown surprising support for expanding charter schools in the city.
New York City Democrats have shown surprising support for expanding charter schools in the city.
James Messerschmidt

Democratic lawmakers with close ties to the union have rejected any expansion of charter schools as part of the state budget, largely parroting the union line. The rejection has left a dozen charter schools that received preliminary approved from state education officials in the lurch.

In the poll, Democratic voters were asked: “As you may know, the state has set a cap on the number of charter schools allowed to open, and New York City has reached that limit. That means that no more charter schools can be authorized to open, even if parents want them and the schools go through a rigorous review process.

“Which of the following comes closer to your view? We should continue blocking all new charter schools from opening. We should allow new charter schools to open if parents want them.”

Seventy percent of Democrats surveyed said more charter schools should open, while 30 percent backed limiting the schools or had no opinion. Support was higher among black primary voters (73 percent) and Hispanics (75 percent). Ninety percent of charter school students are black or Hispanic.

A majority of Democrats — 54 percent — have a favorable view of charter schools compared to 29 percent who have an unfavorable view of them with the rest undecided/having no opinion. Again, support for charters was higher among Black and Latino Dems — 58 percent.

Similarly, 80 percent of primary voters say that charter schools are mostly good for
their students, with only 16 percent view them as bad.

“If any elected official or candidate doubted whether voters citywide support charters, these numbers should put those doubts to rest. Voters, particularly Black and Latino voters of color, overwhelmingly support charter schools and their expansion in New York City,” said StudentsFirstNY Executive Director Jenny Sedlis. 

The poll also asked about the mayor’s race.

Sean "Diddy" Comb's Capital Prep Charter School opens in NYC.
The Benenson Group conducted the charter school survey of 1,558 city Democrats.
Rick Davis /

A majority of respondents — 55 percent — said they were more likely to support a candidate for mayor who expressed support for both charter schools and traditional public schools. Another 23 percent of Democrats said they were less likely to back a pro-charter candidate with the rest saying it would make no difference.

“Large majorities of Democratic primary voters say that charter schools are mostly good for their students and that new charter schools should be allowed to open if parents want them—with even stronger support among Black and Latino primary voters,” a poll strategy memo put out by StudentsFirstNY/Benenson Group said.

“These favorable views create room for mayoral candidates to win the support of Democratic primary voters by embracing a positive role for public charter schools as part of a broader vision for education in New York City,” the memo claims.

The Students First poll of 1,558 Dems has a 2.5 percent margin of error.

Credit: NYPOST

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