Charter School students head to Albany to rally for equal funding

Riverhead Charter School students joined with other advocates for a rally in Albany late last month. The Black Latinx Asian Charter Collaborative (BLACC) — a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting charter schools — invited Riverhead students to join their campaign to encourage lawmakers to make changes in how the schools are funded.

Hundreds of educators, students and advocates for New York public charter schools gathered at West Capital Park to make their voices heard on the need for equitable state funding.

Roughly 80 Riverhead Charter School students packed two buses and braved the long, early morning ride to the state capitol on Tuesday, March 26. At a recent Charter School board meeting following the trip, superintendent Raymond Ankrum expressed his pride in the students for advocating for their school.

“Our kids were there reminding these politicians that charter schools are public schools,” Mr. Ankrum said. “I’m so proud of them in terms of what they’ve been able to accomplish — this is our time to kind of sit back, cross our arms and look at the work that we’ve done over the years because this is super exciting.”

According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, traditional public schools typically receive local, state and federal funding. Although charter schools are public, their funding mainly comes from the home district of each enrolled student based on a cost-per-pupil calculation devised by the state.

Charters are also eligible for federal and foundational grants, but typically receive less total funding than other public schools. Most charter school local education agencies (LEAs) receive an estimated average of 81 cents for every dollar a district school receives, which is ultimately based on enrollment.

The Riverhead Central School District recently presented its current charter school expenses for the 2023-24 school year, which totaled $20,107 per student.

Marianne Cartisano, the district’s assistant superintendent for business, said at the April 2 board meeting that the district has paid almost $71 million to the charter school over the past eight years.

“It is an exorbitant cost that is on the back of these taxpayers,” Cartisano said to the attendees at the meeting. “If you had $14 million more, just imagine what we could do.”

BLACC is a collaborative of more than 20 schools educating some 13,000 students across the state, according to its website. Riverhead Charter School is one of two charter schools on Long Island involved with the organization, along with South Shore Charter School in Ronkonkoma.

“We share resources and best practices in terms of what’s happening in New York City, to kind of keep us all connected because Long Island is pretty lonely in terms of charter schools,” Mr. Ankrum said of working with the organization.