On an April 25 visit to Harlem Children’s Zone Promise Academy, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that Bloomberg Philanthropies would donate $100 million each to two New York City charter networks, Harlem Children’s Zone and Success Academy. Plans for the money include building improvements, recruiting new teachers and implementing programs to combat learning loss. Some of the money will also be directed toward college scholarships, internships and career training programs.
Bloomberg has been outspoken about the effects of the COVID pandemic on public school students, particularly in underserved communities. In an April 18 Op-Ed for the New York Post, Bloomberg wrote that school closures and remote learning due to the COVID pandemic caused students to fall behind. His organization’s donation to New York City charter schools is part of a five-year $750 million investment in public charter schools in 20 U.S. cities. The target schools are in areas that have been hardest hit by the pandemic, where more than 80 percent of students receive free and reduced lunch, and more than 90 percent are children of color.
“Harlem Children’s Zone and Success Academy have both shown what’s possible when we put students first, set high expectations, and hold everyone accountable for results,” Bloomberg said. “Expanding access to high-quality charter schools has never been more important, and our foundation is going to do our part.”
While NYC has seen decreased enrollment in its traditional public schools since the pandemic, charter schools are becoming an increasingly popular choice for Black and brown families. According to data from the New York City Charter School Center, 1 in 4 Black students in New York City attends a charter school.
Success Academy is planning to use Bloomberg’s donation to support building a new campus in the South Bronx that could educate an additional 2,400 students, something that is needed to support the growing demand for charter schools in the community. “We are adding seat capacity, adding the number of students. Our demand is off the charts,” said Eva Moskowitz, Success Academy founder and CEO.
While some critics argue that investments like Bloomberg’s in charter schools take much-needed resources from public schools, others say we can’t afford to do nothing. “We should lean in, whether it’s in traditional public school or in charter schools,” said Geoffrey Canada, founder and president of Harlem Children’s Zone. “But we got to do something about education because the country’s future — certainly the future of black and brown poor children in this country — are on the line right now.”