NYS Senate Raises The Cap On Charters

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With the June 1st deadline for part II of Race to the Top funding approaching fast, the NYS Senate voted 45-15 on Monday night to revise the State’s Charter school law and dramatically raise the number of charters allowed from 200 to 460.

Most observers of the nation-wide grant competition being sponsored by the US Department of Education say this was a major priority for New York in order to improve its chance to win almost $700 million in stimulus funds. During Round One, New York placed 15th out of 16 finalists, in the end losing out to Delaware and Tennessee.

The bill’s passage is being attributed to an ever–expanding budget deficit and pressure from groups like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Democrats for Education Reform with support from New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein who have been major champions for charter schools and mayoral control. After the vote Senate Majority Conference Leader John L. Sampson commented on the new bill by saying

Nothing is more important than investing in our children’s education and our future. We need to improve our score for Race to the Top, just as we need to increase accountability for charter schools and expand educational opportunities for all of our children,”

As expected, not everyone left happy after the vote. The New York State United Teachers union fought hard to get a repeat defeat of this bill like they were able to achieve earlier this year. Despite a new list of regulations and criteria that charter schools would now have meet , union leaders still believe that accountability reform is still missing for these quasi-public institutions. According to Andrew Pallotta, NYSUT’s Executive Vice President, NYSUT’s goal is

not to sink charter schools, but to reform the law to ensure greater accountability and transparency…Charter operators that are above-board have nothing to fear from accountability, but the law must also protect against those who are gaming the system and profiting off the backs of children

The bill is currently being reviewed by committees in the Assembly.