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With a week til deadline, Senate conferences on charter cap

With the Race to the Top deadline just a week away, lawmakers in Albany are huddling today about Governor David Paterson’s proposed legislation to boost the state’s application.

Sources tell us one option under discussion is to boost the charter cap to 400, double the number currently allowed under state law. That would represent a compromise from the governor’s bill, which would eliminate the cap entirely.  State Education Commissioner David Steiner first floated the 400 cap number in December, the same day Senate President Malcolm Smith introduced a bill to lift the cap to that number.  The head then vice-president of the state teachers union, Richard Ianuzzi Alan Lubin, has called a 400-charter cap “ridiculous.”

Today’s discussion is happening in the Senate Democratic Conference, though the legislation is unlikely to reach a vote today. The only scheduled legislative session left before the federal deadline is Tuesday, the deadline itself. Governor Paterson could elect to keep legislators later this week, and he has given them a deadline of Thursday to pass a bill.

Assembly members have been less friendly generally to the legislation, and Assembly staffers reportedly skipped a weekend meeting on the issue. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has so far remained publicly mum on whether he will support lifting the cap.

Earlier this week, a legislative official told the New York Post that lawmakers were likely to pass a compromise bill “within a week and in time for the deadline.”