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Charter school funding freeze may not have entirely melted

Reports on the death of the charter school funding freeze may be exaggerated.

The reports have to do with a surprise side effect of Governor David Paterson’s decision to veto an education spending bill this week. Among the provisions that the veto eliminated was language that would have kept charter school funding at 2008 levels.

The change would require the city to give charter schools an additional $42 million next year. But the additional funds are not necessarily guaranteed.

“This is not a celebratory moment,” said Peter Murphy, policy director of the New York State Charter School Association. “This fight goes on.”

The ultimate fate of the charter school funding increase will depend on whether the governor and legislature reinstate the freeze during final rounds of budget negotiations. Paterson vetoed the education bill because of a dispute over $419 million in school aid that the legislature added against his wishes, not because he objected to all of its measures. (You can read Paterson’s veto message explaining his rationale for rejecting the full bill here.)

The freeze was one of several parts of the bill that Paterson vetoed that he and the legislature had actually agreed on. So it’s still possible that lawmakers will agree to reinsert the freeze language into whatever version of an education spending bill they eventually settle on.

If the thaw does make it through final budget negotiations, it’s not yet clear where the additional funds for charters in New York City would come from. They could be docked from the Department of Education’s current budget, or they could be found elsewhere in the city budget.

The City Council approved a city budget for next year earlier this month. I’m checking to find out if it’s possible that additional funds for charter schools would need to come from the DOE’s budget or if other city funds could still be allocated. I’ll update when I know the answer.

Charter school funding has been frozen at 2008 levels for a year now, and the schools have been lobbying state and city officials to lift the freeze for next year.

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