A group supporting charter schools says New York City has embraced an unwritten policy of impeding charter schools' access to public space.

A report from Families for Excellent Schools says that despite a state law passed in 2014 that was intended to give charter schools an easier path to gaining access to public spaces, the city has rejected 79 percent of the requests charter organizations have made for public space since 2014.

The report, Space to Learn: How NYC's Public Charter Schools Are Denied Public Space," asserts that under Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration,  "the practice of unfairly denying public charter schools space is alive and well."

"The administration has delayed the process wherever possible, rejected applications in districts with ample public space, and forced educators to identify, secure and pay for private space they often can't afford," the report contends.

According to the report:

  • Of the 105 requests charter schools have made in the last two-and-a-half years for access to public space, 22 co-locations have been approved and 83 have been denied.
  • In more than 90 percent of the rejections, the facility in question had ample space to support a co-located charter school.
  • More than 90 percent of the city's space denials were overturned by the New York State Education Department.

The struggle to gain access to adequate classroom space often means that charter school leaders, instead of focusing on educational concerns, must deal with issues of real estate, finance and zoning.

"If a school leader is lucky enough to find a suitable private space, they often can't afford it because the rental assistance provided by the city under the law rarely covers enough of the cost," the report says. "As a result, the barriers to entry for educators seeking to open innovative public charter schools have become almost impossibly high."