Protect Public Education Against the Charter Industry
Dear Legislator, As a constituent who cares deeply about quality public education, I urge you to oppose the executive budget proposals to increase funding to charter schools and the number of charter schools without ensuring transparency and accountability.
CHARTER SCHOOL BASIC TUITION FORMULA INCREASESSince 2017, state law has required local school districts to pay for annual increases in charter tuition. This is a burden that has become increasingly expensive for local districts. Traditional public schools should not be held responsible for state-mandated increases in charter school tuition payments. In the past, the state fully reimbursed school districts for the per pupil increase in tuition for charter schools — that is no longer the case.
Charter tuition in New York City has gone up by 11 percent since 2017, and is expected to increase another 5.3 percent this year. Under the current structure, New York City and the 15 school districts that have the most students enrolled in charters will see their tuition costs rise by $206 million, or almost half of the Foundation Aid increase proposed by the executive this year.
Accordingly, I would urge the Legislature to reject the executive budget proposal to increase funding to charter schools and call for a charter tuition formula fix to address this issue so that public school districts are not subsidizing charter schools in their districts.
KEEP THE CHARTER SCHOOL CAP IN PLACEIn addition to increased funding, the executive budget proposes language to circumvent the cap on new charter schools in New York City by allowing a charter that is a reissuance of a surrendered, revoked or terminated charter to not count against the cap — reviving 18 so-called "zombie charters." We must keep the charter school cap in place and avoid bringing back "zombie charters." A loophole in existing law allows for a single charter issued by the state to operate three schools. A charter, for example, may be initially granted to serve grades k-5, but in the future may apply for a charter revision to add on subsequent grades through grade 12. There are some charters that operate pre-k through grade 12, meaning they run an elementary, middle and high school. The existing loophole already allows for many charters to grow, so there is no need to statutorily increase the cap. In addition to keeping the cap in place, I would urge the Legislature to include the provisions contained in S.5950 (Mayer)/A.8029 (Benedetto) in the enacted budget to limit school grade level expansions for charter schools so that the issuance of one charter does not allow for the creation of three. ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY OF THE CHARTER INDUSTRYMore than 22 years after the first charter school laws were established, New York still needs to pass significant reforms in order to ensure all charter operators are held accountable for serving all students and are required to be more transparent about their finances. I believe charter school operators should be required to serve a comparable number of high-needs students, students living in temporary housing and English language learners as traditional public schools in their districts. I also believe that charters need to be more transparent about how they use taxpayer dollars.
Therefore I urge the Legislature to include provisions from the following bills in the final budget: S.4237 (Hoylman)/A.8030 (Benedetto) — the Charter School Accountability and Transparency Act; and S.2743 (Addabbo)/A.6934 (Nolan) — legislation to require charter schools to disclose financial information on contracts signed with education management organizations.
REPEAL NEW YORK CITY CHARTER SCHOOL FACILITIES AIDAs the basic charter school tuition in New York City continues to rise, the cost of charter schools operating in private spaces in New York City is also increasing. This year’s executive budget includes a $50 million allocation, up from $31.5 million in last year's enacted budget, for New York City charter school facilities aid (part of the proposed 14 percent overall increase provided to the industry this year). These are public taxpayer dollars that ultimately end up in the hands of private landlords.
I ask the legislature to include the provisions contained in S.6043 (Liu)/A.8027 (Benedetto) in the final budget to repeal the ever-increasing charter school facilities aid that continues to siphon public dollars into the private real estate industry.
We all have much to gain from reforming the charter industry to ensure that all charter operators are transparent in reporting their finances and are held accountable for admitting and serving all students. New York State should impose accountability and transparency standards on the charter industry that are consistent with the accountability and transparency standards imposed upon traditional public schools. Absent these same oversight protections that are in place for traditional public schools, the state should not expand the number of charter schools. Thank you for your consideration of this very important issue. I respectfully ask that you bring up these issues with your conference and I would greatly appreciate a response to this letter. Sincerely,
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