Advocates rallied in the state Capitol on Monday in support of Gov. Kathy Hochul's proposal to increase the number of charter schools in New York City, saying it will help address racial inequities rampant in education.

The governor proposed lifting New York City's regional cap on charter schools and allowing for 85 more in the state in her executive budget.

Leaders with the Black Latinx, Asian Charter Collaborative addressed lawmakers in the state's Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus on Monday, calling for Hochul's proposal to be included in the final budget due April 1. They say more charters give parents and guardians more options for students to attend school in an environment that's best for them.

"The rhetoric of equity has been a part of this dominant conversation with little progress ... and the charter school sector shows the most visible signs of making progress," said the Rev. Raymond Rivera, president and founder of the Latino Pastoral Action Center. "It is community empowerment. It is parent empowerment. That's why there are so many vested interests against this."

Educators and powerful labor unions continue to strongly push back against expanding charters in the state.

The group came to Albany also to support legislation, nicknamed the Public Education Racial Equity and Diversity Act, which would prioritize creating hundreds of new charters with community-based and minority-led organizations, increasing the statewide limit on charter schools from 460 to 796. 

Charter schools continue to have long waitlists for students. Charter schools are centralized in areas with poor-performing public districts, especially low-income or minority communities.

Standing outside the Senate chamber Monday, they argued charters help to increase diversity in the classroom and would fight inequity pervasive across public education.

"If you look across the state, one-third of all public school students don't have a single Black or Latinx teacher," said Rafiq Kalam Id-din, Founder, Ember Charter Schools for Mindful Education. "The data about this is clear. This inequity is huge but the other part of the data says that if you have access to just one Black educator, it significantly increases positive academic out comes for students." 

State Education Department Commissioner Betty Rosa questioned Hochul's thinking in proposing to lift the city's cap on charters and create more across the state at a budget hearing earlier this month. Rosa said while several charter schools are run well, most fail to be financially transparent with the state department and fail to provide adequate services to students with learning disabilities or special needs.