New Yorkers, facing poorly performing schools, need more choice

Every New York student deserves access to a quality education regardless of race, ethnicity, wealth or ZIP code. The reality, though, is poorly performing public schools, violence, pandemic policies, woke educators and curricula run wild have forced more and more parents to explore other options, such as charter, private or parochial schools and in some cases homeschooling.

To truly raise the bar, we must lift the antiquated cap on charter schools, implement tax credits for school choice and Education Savings Accounts, extend advanced and specialized academics, protect merit-based entry exams into specialized schools, expand technical training and so much more. The status quo just doesn’t cut it.

My twin teenage daughters are going to the same public high school I attended, and my wife Diana and I are very happy with the quality education they’re receiving. All New Yorkers aren’t so fortunate, and many have been forced to make hard decisions about their children’s education.

An example of how New York has failed many of our children is captured in a study comparing the quality of education in New York and Florida. Both states have roughly the same student population, but that’s where the similarities end.

Florida has a greater number of black, Hispanic and low-income students. It also spends far less: $9,986 per student versus $24,882 per student in New York. Testing of fourth-grade students in both states show very different results; Florida students of all backgrounds scored higher in math and reading, ranking near the top of the national scale, while New York ranked 40th and 28th respectively.

Rep. Zeldin said many New Yorkers have to make "hard decisions" about their children's education due to a lack of access to options like charter schools.
Rep. Zeldin said many New Yorkers have to make “hard decisions” about their children’s education due to a lack of access to options like charter schools.
J.C. Rice

What a shocking gap when the Empire State spends 2½ times the tax dollars per student as Florida.

A primary option for many parents seeking a better education for their children has been charters: independently operated schools funded with your tax dollars. Yet Gov. Kathy Hochul and Democrats in Albany have stalled raising the cap on the number of charter schools around the state.

In August, New York City charter schools welcomed more than 145,000 students to 275 schools throughout the five boroughs. That’s roughly 15% of all city students receiving a public education. About 80% of these students come from economically disadvantaged families choosing charter schools because they felt traditional public schools simply weren’t educating their children.

The proof of success is in charter schools’ four-year high-school-graduation rates, which are four times that of local public schools. It’s quite remarkable the superior scores that charter-school students receive on standardized testing compared with their public-school peers. And it’s even more striking when you consider the cost per pupil is $17,626 versus roughly $28,000 in traditional New York City public schools.

While the solution might be found in a charter school, the problem is that demand far outweighs the number of available seats, leaving more than 50,000 students on waiting lists. This situation can only be remedied by lifting the cap on the number of charter, a cap that’s become obsolete with these schools’ proven success in New York City and state over the past two decades.

Some parents may feel that private or religious schools or even homeschooling are the right choice for their children. Many struggle to pay the tuition, or, in the case of homeschooling, one parent is forced to give up a full-time job so their children can receive a quality education. Already facing runaway inflation and skyrocketing taxes, these hardworking New Yorkers deserve relief in the form of tax credits, savings accounts and other reasonable options that will lessen the bite of tuition costs or homeschooling.

By providing true learning choices for our students and their parents, we’ll also create competition that will spur all schools and educators to provide a better education to remain viable.

The greatest asset we have is our children; they are the future of the Empire State and deserve the best education possible.

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-LI) is a candidate for governor of New York.

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