Charter school boosters are crying foul as city officials consider cutting them out of a widely used direct-mail marketing program.
Scores of city charter schools currently use a city-owned list to send direct-mail marketing materials to families through a company called Vanguard.
The practice, begun more than a decade ago, has drawn criticism from activists who say it siphons students away from traditional public schools and Mayor de Blasio said at a town hall meeting in February that he’d look into changing it.
Now officials say the change could be soon, and charter advocates are organizing against it.
NYC Charter Center CEO James Merriman said the change would keep thousands of city families who need access to charter schools in the dark.
“At its core, this policy reversal, which is being devised in secret, would be aimed specifically at ensuring that NYC families have less – not more – information about their school choices,” Merriman said. “By withholding information, the DOE is holding parents hostage to their local district schools – many of which are low performing.”
But critics of the arrangement say it gives charter schools an advantage because they send marketing materials to city families while district-run public schools traditionally do not.
Activist parents have complained about the data-sharing deal for years and in 2017 a Manhattan mom named Johanna Garcia filed a federal complaint, claiming it violated student privacy.
A particularly irksome point in the deal for many parents is the fact that families are unable to opt-out of the mailings or sharing of personal information, including students’ names, addresses and grades.
De Blasio, who is a longtime critic of the publicly funded, privately run charter schools, seemed poised to yank the city’s parent mailing list — with data on hundreds of thousands of city families — on Wednesday night, as city officials reached out to parent leaders in an attempt to drum up support.
But as of Thursday morning the city had tabled the idea, at least temporarily.
“We’re looking at that issue and we have to come to a decision soon about how we have to handle it,” de Blasio said. “But there’s not a final decision.”
NeQuan McLean, a Brooklyn dad who co-chairs a citywide school board called the Education Council Consortium and is president of the Community Education Council in District 16, said he receives a couple of charter mailers a week.