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Charter cap lift passes Senate, union says it's a "one house" bill

A bill that would more than double the number of charter schools allowed in New York passed the State Senate today to critics’ warnings that it would need an overhaul to win the Assembly’s approval.

Passed by a margin of 45 to 15, the bill would raise the charter school cap from 200 to 460 and would require the schools to serve at least half of the percentage of special education students and non-English speaking students that district schools enroll.

Senators who voted in favor of the bill said it would improve the state’s chances of winning $700 million in Race to the Top and help families stuck on charter school waitlists. Those opposed said the bill ignored major concerns about co-location, the state comptroller’s inability to audit the schools, and the number of charter schools that should be able to operate in a single district.

Chair of the Senate’s education committee, Senator Suzi Oppenheimer, voted against the bill, calling it a “distraction.”

“The idea was to try and bring as many entities together so our application to Race to the Top would be a strong one,” Oppenheimer said. “It is certainly not just adding numbers to charter schools, it is adding accountability.”

New York City teachers union president Michael Mulgrew responded to the vote by saying the bill “has no chance of becoming law” and is a “one-house charter bill.”

In a statement sent to reporters, Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson characterized the bill’s Senate passage as “the beginning of an important conversation.”

New York State has until June 1 to pass legislation aimed at improving its bid for Race to the Top funds.

Senators who voted against the bill:

Neil Breslin, Tom Duane, Liz Krueger, Kenneth LaValle, Velmanette Montgomery, Suzi Oppenheimer, Frank Padavan, Bill Perkins, Stephen Saland, Eric Schneiderman, Jose Serrano, William Stachowski, Toby Ann Stavisky, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Antoine Thompson

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