Pressure Mounts On BK Lawmakers To Lift Charter School Cap

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With the new annual New York City Charter School Center (NYCCSC) report showing a near record of 52,700 city children applying for charter schools without a seat to be had, the issue of lifting the city’s charter school cap is taking center stage as the state legislative session moves into its final two days.

Making the issue even more important is there are only 28 city charters available left to open under current law. According to a NYCCSC analysis those will likely be used within the next year.

Data and Graph taken from the “NYC Charter Schools: 2018-2019 Enrollment Lottery Estimates Report.”

And in Brooklyn, with the report finding 22,497 applicants for just 10,872 available charter school seats, pressure is mounting on a number of borough assembly members whose districts have large charter applicant to seat discrepancies to cut a deal on one of two senate bills allowing to lift the charter school cap.

Among these lawmakers are Assembly Members Erik Dilan, Jo Anne Simon, Rodneyse Bichotte, Latrice Walker and Tremaine Wright representing a broad range of socio-economic neighborhoods including Williamsburg, Bushwick, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, Brooklyn Heights, Downtown Brooklyn, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus, Park Slope, Boerum Hill and DUMBO.

These assembly members hold plenty of sway as Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has let it be known he will support the will of the chamber majority on the issue.

The first senate bill, S9097, would eliminate the geographic cap that restricts the number of charters that can be issued in New York City (this sub-cap was set at 50 in 2015). If passed, this would increase the number of charters currently available in the city from 28 to 108. In addition this proposal would allow all revoked charters to be reissued in perpetuity as such charters are revoked or terminated.  This would mean another 12 charters available for issuance bringing to a total availability of 142 charter schools.

The second senate measure S09098, has two parts including changing the NYC-specific subcap so that 90% of new charters issued annually would go to the city. That provision would take effect immedielty.

The second provision will only take effect once the State University of New York (SUNY) and the State Education Department (SED) certified that the current 460 charter cap had been reached, and then the statewide cap would increase from 460 to 560 and eliminate the 90% subcap for NYC. This would allow city access to an additional 100 charter schools If both provisions of this bill are passed it would give the city access to at least 231 charter schools.

According to the NYCCSC’s “NYC Charter Schools: 2018-2019 Enrollment Lottery Estimates Report” there were 79,600 unique students applied to one of the anticipated 238 NYC public charter schools for the 2018-19 school-year – a 9 percent increase in demand over the 2017-2018 applicant pool.

Further, the report found the overwhelming demand means that the number of students without access to a seat, at the time each charter school runs its lottery, has exceeded 52,700 different children, rising above the 50,000 marker for just the second time ever and for the first time since 2013-2014.

“With the number of applicants hitting another record high, there is no doubt that demand for public charter schools is growing. These numbers should send a clear signal to every policy maker in the state that parents want great public school options. We must eliminate the cap on charter schools now,” said James Merriman, CEO of the Charter Center.

The charter school cap issues comes as the state legislation session moves into its final two days, when the state senate and assembly comes to an agreement on a number of unpassed bills in what is known as “The Big Ugly.”

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