Some moms and dads in city public-school districts with plummeting kindergarten enrollment say it’s parent engagement that is prompting people to put their kiddies in charters.
“My older daughter was in a charter school, and the teachers were always calling and talking to the parents about behavior, academic stuff,” said Angyelina Almonte, a 38-year-old mom of three and public-school administrator in the city school district with the biggest drop in kindergarten enrollment.
“I think the teachers are more engaged with parents [at the charter school],” Almonte said.
The mom works at Community School 55, a Morrisania elementary school in the Bronx’s District 9, which includes Morris Heights and Mount Eden.
The district has seen the largest decline in kindergarten enrollment, as city public-schools reel from a startling overall 17% kindergarten-enrollment drop in the past six years.
According to city Department of Education data obtained by The Post, 12,000 fewer kindergarten students were enrolled citywide this past school year than in 2016-17.
Almonte said she is considering sending her 3-year-old daughter to a charter school now, too.
Charter schools are publicly funded but privately run and attract highly motivated students and families that are mostly economically disadvantaged minorities who outperform their public school-attending counterparts.
“People say the problem with public school is the teachers, but it’s the parents,” Almonte insisted. “As a parent, if you engage with your children and you support the teachers, I think your kids can grow more and be more open to society.”
The DOE worker said the COVID-19 pandemic likely didn’t help boost city enrollment numbers, an analysis that was backed up by data which showed 37,600 students transferred out of the city in the past six years.
Declining birth rates are also partially to blame for the decreased kindergarten enrollment, experts said.
“My daughter was born in the pandemic so we protected her, kept her at home all the time,” Almonte said. “Maybe that’s what’s going through parents’ minds right now. They don’t want the kids to interact with other kids, they don’t want to get sick.”
Luis Eladio Torres, the principal of CS 55, a public K-5 school which shares a building with a charter school, Bronx Success Academy 2, said the proliferation of charter schools had led to lower public-school enrollment.
The first charter opened in the city 1999, and an average of 12 a year were added since then until the city reached its cap in 2019, according to New York City Charter School Center.
Albany lawmakers agreed earlier this summer to allow 22 more charters to the 275 already in the five boroughs.
“The way I see it is, if you have a lake with five fish and two fishermen, there’s enough fish for everyone to eat,” said Torres, who also serves as the president of the New York City Elementary School Principals Association. “But if you add seven more fishermen to that lake, there won’t be enough fish to go around.
“Same when you add a lot of new schools to the same district. Enrollment is down because there are lots of new schools but not enough students to go around.”
Ruth Arias, 38, is a single mother who immigrated from the Dominican Republic, said her 4-year-old will probably attend a public kindergarten next year in a District 9 school, even though she is concerned that’s where her 7-year-old picked up a lot of English profanity.
“I don’t like the public school. The children have a different education, a bad education. When my kid went to a public school, he adopted bad words,” Arias lamented.
“He said, ‘F–k you’ around the house, and I knew it was coming from his school. The children there fight.
“I need to find another school [than the basic public option], any other school,” Arias said.
“This is a poor area, and poor neighborhoods have poor education. The community doesn’t put as much money into the school, and the education is worse.”
But PJ Smith, 30, a CS 55 alum with three kids — a newborn girl and boys ages 3 and 6 — said her eldest followed in her footsteps because Smith believes charter schools are not without their problems.
“To me, it’s all the same. No matter where you go, the education system is all messed up. Every school has its own good parts and its own problems,” Smith said.
Daniel Williams, a father of three students at the public school, also touted the education his kids received.
“All my kids went to [CS55], and it’s been fine. We have thought about [charter school]. My wife has brought it up. I think it’s kind of a trend thing. She hears about it from her friends and wants it,” Williams said.
“Social media has definitely had an impact [on that perception]. People post and talk on social media and talk about how private school is so great and public school is so bad. People see public school like a food pantry. They don’t want to send their kids there if they can help it,” he said.
Neither the Department of Education nor City Hall responded to Post requests for comment on plans to boost enrollment or what parents’ shifting preferences for charter schools mean for the state of public education in the city.