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How scared should SUNY's Charter School Institute really be?

Was the State University of New York’s ability to approve and oversee charter schools truly at risk during last month’s charter school cap debate? The lead vignette of today’s Times profile of city lobbyist Micah Lasher suggests that it was:

Just when Micah C. Lasher thought it was safe to finally sleep one recent morning, three words appeared in his in-box: “It’s a sham.”

Mr. Lasher had stayed up all night helping write a bill to increase the number of charter schools in New York, a cornerstone of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s education agenda. But amid the frenzy, a highly contentious provision had slipped by him: the State University of New York would lose its power to approve charter schools.

If SUNY’s Charter School Institute really was only saved during a middle-of-the-night wrangling, that could be a bad sign for the organization’s future: the Institute is currently facing budget cuts that might gut its operations.

But all of our information suggests that lawmakers supported keeping SUNY’s ability to oversee charters. The provision that could have revoked SUNY’s chartering authority was the result of a manic bill drafting process and late-night fatigue, not an attack on the widely-praised charter school overseers.

“The Assembly was on the same page as us, in that the goal all along was to preserve SUNY’s chartering authority,” Lasher told GothamSchools today. “At worst, the language folks were concerned about was an ambiguity.”

That jives with what I heard the day the bill was passed from Jonas Chartock, the head of the SUNY Charter Schools Institute, and Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, one of the bill’s main proponents and the sponsor of the chapter amendment that clarified that SUNY would remain an independent authorizer of charter schools.

And even Richard Ianuzzi, the head of the state teachers union who has been skeptical of current charter school oversight practices, is on the record opposing cuts to the Institute as long as they maintain chartering authority.

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