Charter Pulse

Selected readings on US charter schools

New state law changes makes opening charter schools in New York City easier than any other in nation

charterschoolsGet ready for a charter school gold rush.

Recently enacted changes in state law created an environment for opening charter schools in New York City that’s friendlier than almost any other city in the nation.

“From an infrastructure perspective, things have never been better,” said James Merriman, the influential CEO of the New York City Charter School Center.

“We have the governor and state Legislature to thank for that.”

Would-be charter school operators have already contacted the center asking for information on the benefits of the law spearheaded by Gov. Cuomo. It requires that the city provide new or expanding charters with space in traditional public school buildings or rent for privately-owned space.

The law also increases per-pupil funding for charters from $13,527 to an estimated $14,027 by the 2017-2018 school year.

“It changes the whole game,” said Ric Campbell, 61, co-founder of the South Bronx Early College Academy. “It’s a huge advantage.”

Campbell’s middle school received its charter in December and won’t open until September 2015 with 110 kids and $300,000 dedicated to facility-related expenses.

If Campbell qualifies for the new benefits he could spend the money on hiring four more teachers, laptops for each student, field trips to college campuses or more arts and music programming, he said.

He’s not the only one excited by the benefits of the new law.

“Everyone who reaches out to our organization is considering whether they are eligible,” said Kyle Rosenkrans, vice president of policy and advocacy at the Northeast Charter Schools Network, which works directly with 183 schools.

Critics have blasted the law.

“Gov. Cuomo has given a green light to a separate and unequal school system that favors privately run charter schools and underfunds traditional public schools,” said Zakiyah Ansari, advocacy director for the Alliance for Quality Education.

The charter movement is counting on the continued support of Cuomo, who is listed as honorary chairman of a private education conference in Lake Placid beginning Sunday and attended by charter operators and deep-pocketed hedge fund donors.

“It’s not just about putting more money in the public school system, it’s trying something new and that’s what charter schools are all about,” Cuomo has told charter supporters.

That doesn’t sit well with Ansari.

“Political contributions from super-wealthy ideological promoters of privatization have too much control over education policy under Cuomo’s new law — instead parents and communities should be in the driver’s seat for their children’s future,” she said.

Rosenkrans was guardedly optimistic about the law, which he said includes a lot of vague language that still needs to be hashed out.

Still, observers expect an avalanche of applicants for the 52 remaining spots allocated by the state for new charter schools in New York City — and teachers eager to land jobs.

That’s on top of the 21 approved charter schools set to open in the city this year.

All told, that means 73 new charter schools in the coming years.

Campbell worried the new funding might lure would-be charter operators with the wrong priorities.

“It will attract more people, but for the wrong reasons,” he said. “Those of us that believe in the mission will do it anyway. If you get into this for money, you’re going to be disappointed.”

Source: New York Daily News – by Ben Chapman, Stephen Rex Brown
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This entry was posted on May 8, 2014 by in Charter Schools, New York, States.

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