Leaders blast panel's charter school vote
Jennings, McLaughlin say finance meeting no place for educational debate
By CAROL DEMARE Staff writer
Published in the Times Union, 12:00 a.m., Saturday, February 19, 2011
ALBANY -- Two top officials expressed dismay Friday that a financing panel's rejection of funds for new charter schools in the city deprived Albany of much-needed cash for programs.
Mayor Jerry Jennings and Common Council President Carolyn McLaughlin further expressed anger that the forum took the occasion to weigh in on the merits of charter schools.
"It was not a place to debate charter schools," Jennings said. "It was a place to debate finances. The vote deprived our taxpayers in the city of $600,000 that we could have used for economic development for the challenges we face financially and for youth programs."
By a 4-3 vote, the Capital Resource Corporation -- charged with helping promote development and create jobs -- refused on Thursday to provide access to up to $42 million in tax-free financing to the Charter Facilities Finance Fund, affiliated with the Brighter Choice Foundation, for two of its projects. Brighter Choice is the largest builder of charter schools in Albany.
Supporters of the city school district urged board members -- all seven of whom are appointed by the Common Council -- to turn away from construction of more charter schools they claim drain resources from the city district.
Jennings initially sounded off on those who opposed the funding on Talk1300 radio while discussing the matter with host Paul Vandenburgh before the mayor did his regular show.
After he finished his broadcast, Jennings told the Times Union, "If they can't be objective about these projects and the value of a financial point of view and keep it in that arena, they shouldn't be there. They shouldn't let their personal feelings, or opinions, in this instance charter schools and public schools, dictate how to vote. They should look at what projects to finance and objectively vote on it."
Later Friday, McLaughlin agreed. The action by the Capital Resource Corporation was "not in best interest of the city nor the kids who attend charter schools," she said.
"The Brighter Choice Foundation met the criteria to come before the CRC, and the decision should have been made based on that and not whether you are a supporter of charter schools or a supporter of public schools," the council president said. "Charter schools are public schools and I hate to differentiate between them."
Charter schools, whether run by Brighter Choice or another corporation, "are in our city and are here to stay," McLaughlin said. Instead of the argument that charter schools are draining taxpayers, "our fight should be with the state to fund charter schools ... and until the time the funding mechanism changes, we have to learn to co-exist."
"It's another form of education for all of our children," she said, adding almost 20 percent of students in Albany attend charter schools. "Why should we not want to ensure that we have facilities that meet the highest standards."
The money Brighter Choice was seeking would have helped refinance construction of the Albany Leadership Charter High School for Girls and finance the building of two middle schools on Elk Street.
Read more: http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Leaders-blast-panel-s-charter-school-vote-1020844.php#ixzz1mvgEhe4i