The Charter Industry
As your constituent and someone who cares deeply about public education, I call upon you to provide accountability and transparency within the charter industry.
The state should take every effort to ensure that charter schools are operating on a level playing field as our traditional neighborhood public schools. This will also allow the state to more easily identify those charter operators that are not fulfilling their mission.
As a first step in providing parity between neighborhood public schools and charter schools, I believe the Board of Regents should serve as the sole authorizer of charter schools. Currently, both the Board of Regents and the SUNY Board of Trustees can approve and renew charter school applications. SUNY's Charter School Committee has even tried to set their own educational standards for certifying teachers at charter schools, until they were sued and lost in court.
Recently, SUNY authorized the creation of charter schools that were opposed by the community. In other instances, the Trustees have ignored the fiscal and programmatic impact a new charter school would have on the public school district. The Trustees have even created a scheme to try and circumvent the charter school cap in New York City by creating a new charter high school by allowing a network of charter schools to expand their grade offerings. The charter industry must operate under a uniform application approval process to ensure fiscal, programmatic and educational stability for all students in the school district. To meet this objective, I urge you to pass S.7666-A (Liu)/A.8801 (Benedetto), which provides the Board of Regents with final approval authority over all proposed and renewed charter schools. The charter industry continues to use loopholes in the Charter School Act law to circumvent the statutory cap on charter schools by expanding their grades and creating entirely new schools that were never part of their original application. Grade expansions should not be approved in any revision or renewal of charter schools if they are not in compliance with the law. To maintain the integrity of the existing statutory cap, the state must restrict grade expansions for these schools and thoroughly examine the fiscal and programmatic implications such new grades would have on the public school district.
In addition, the charter industry must comply with the law and serve the very populations they were charged to educate - students who are at-risk of academic failure. Many charter operators continue to under-enroll students with disabilities, English language learners and students in temporary housing. Grade expansions should not be approved in any revision or renewal of their application if they are not in compliance with the law.
I also urge you to reject any proposals that attempt to lift the cap on charter schools, including "zombie charter" proposals that seek to circumvent the cap on new charter schools through the reissuance of a surrendered, revoked or terminated charter.
Until charter management organizations follow the law that established these schools, the state should not support increasing their numbers or expanding their grades. Charter schools should instead focus on increasing current enrollment for students who are at-risk and require transparency and accountability of the charter industry. To accomplish these common-sense measures, I urge you to pass S.676 (Mayer)/A.5117 (Benedetto), which limits a charter school entity's ability to expand grade levels beyond its current grade configurations; and pass S.4200 (Hoylman)/A.5135 (Benedetto), which holds charter schools accountable on several issues, including enrollment of specific student populations.
The state should also relieve school districts of the financial pressures associated with charter schools by passing and enacting A.9366 (Peoples-Stokes). This bill would require the state to pay school districts the entire cost of the charter school tuition payments in the current year. Under existing law, the state only pays a portion of the cost of charter school tuition and reimburses the public school district on a one-year lag, effectively taking an interest-free loan on the students and the school district. School districts should also stop payment to charter schools on the day a student returns to the neighborhood public school, be able to recoup excess payments erroneously made to the charter school and charter schools should bill the student's school district of residence in a timely fashion.
Thank you for your consideration of this very important issue, I respectfully ask that you bring up this issue with your conference and I would greatly appreciate a response to this email.
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