Why we’re giving $50M to charter schools to help kids after COVID

School closures and inadequate remote instruction over the last two years have created a crisis in public education.

The data are clear. Across the United States, students have fallen behind by an average of four months in math and five months in English. The results have been even worse for those children most in need, especially in schools serving mainly low-income populations, where students have fallen behind by an average of seven months.

Make no mistake: This is a real crisis requiring immediate intervention. Unless urgent steps are taken, many children will never catch back up.

That’s why it’s so encouraging to see that Mayor Eric Adams and Schools Chancellor David Banks have wisely expanded Summer Rising, which offers academics in the morning and enrichment activities in the afternoon. The program will serve 110,000 students in grades K-8, up more than 10% from last year.

Given the extent of the crisis, the private sector and philanthropic groups must step up, too. So to build on the city’s efforts and increase access to summer classes, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Kenneth C. Griffin, Stan Druckenmiller, the Carson Family Charitable Trust, Robin Hood, Gray Foundation and Walentas Foundation are committing $50 million to help charter schools create or expand summer school programs this year. Through the initiative, called Summer Boost NYC, all the city’s elementary and middle charter schools can apply for funding to create and run high-quality programs.

We’ll focus on helping K-8 students most in need of additional assistance. Schools will have flexibility in how they use the funding, which will help them target resources to where they’re needed most, but each will attentively offer a high-quality curriculum to improve reading levels and math fluency.

The vast majority of charter-school students come from low-income households in black and Latino communities, and they deserve high-quality summer-school programs. Charter-school leaders are eager to offer them, but they need support to make it happen — for curriculum, salaries for teachers and staff, transportation and enrichment activities that involve social and emotional development. The funding we’re providing will help them pay for all those things.

More young New Yorkers deserve access to opportunities.
Christopher Sadowski

Charter schools receive less in per-pupil state education funding than district schools, but the flexibility they have to empower teachers and principals — and hold them accountable for success — has produced extraordinary results. In New York City, charters outperform district schools by 10 points in English and more than 15 points in math. And many have reduced or eliminated the achievement gap with the state’s wealthiest suburbs.

More young New Yorkers deserve access to those opportunities, and our leaders in Albany should help provide them by lifting the state cap on charter schools.

Nevertheless, charter-school students — like all students — have suffered learning loss over the past two years. And like all students, they should have the opportunity to attend a summer school program that will help them catch up and get back on track. For many students, it could make a lifetime of difference.

Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, served as mayor of New York from 2002 to 2013.

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