Charter school leaders lobby for facilities money

A small group of charter school leaders added their voices to the last-minute push to give charter schools free room in district buildings or funds to pay for private space.

“It’s not something that we’re asking for,” Morty Ballen, CEO of Explore Charter Schools, said at a press conference this morning at Brooklyn Borough Hall. “It’s something that we deserve.” 

The issue is being discussed in state budget negotiations this week. It was addressed in the Senate’s proposal last week and enthusiastically embraced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, whose support is needed to pass the budget, has so far been resistant to the proposal, saying that there are other priorities that he is interested in.

Ballen’s schools are given free space inside city-owned buildings, but he said he was speaking on behalf of the entire charter sector, which includes 68 schools operating in private space without facilities funding. One of those schools was Brooklyn Prospect Charter School Executive Director Daniel Rubenstein, who said he spends around 20 percent of his $15 million operating budget to pay for facilities costs associated with being open in private space. 

The other leaders were Coney Island Preparatory’s Jacob Mnookin and Peter Herzberg, who is opening a Bronx school from the Public Prep Charter School network next year. 

The rally was organized by Families for Excellent Schools, which the Daily News reported today has so far spent $3.6 million in a month-long advertising campaign aimed at attacking Mayor Bill de Blasio’s positions on charter schools.