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Council Member Daniel Dromm, right, was selected to chair the Council's education committee in January.

Council Member Daniel Dromm, right, was selected to chair the Council’s education committee in January.

City Council members repeat calls for oversight in letter to SUNY charter authorizer

Since Bill de Blasio’s co-location battle with Success Academy last spring, the mayor has backed off on his criticism of charter schools. But the City Council’s education committee is pushing ahead in its opposition to the sector.

Council Member and education committee chair Daniel Dromm submitted a letter to the SUNY Charter Schools Institute on Thursday requesting that the charter authorizer stop approving new schools “until you address the lack of oversight and accountability in this rapidly growing sector.” The letter repeats concerns raised at the committee’s May 6 oversight hearing about school discipline, high student and staff attrition, and their proportion of English language learners and students with special needs.

The Council has little control over the 183 charter schools located in the city, and no authority to mandate changes to SUNY’s authorization process.

But SUNY does hold sway over the schools it authorizes, and the letter requests that SUNY enact recommendations compiled by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform before it approves new schools. The report proposes that charter schools be required to “backfill” seats and publish disciplinary practices online, for example.

Charter school advocates were quick to paint the committee’s call for “common-sense oversight” as a political stunt.

“They claim their concerns are rooted in the need for stronger oversight and better quality controls, but it’s clear these are just excuses for what they’re really doing—carrying the water for longtime charter opponents including the teachers unions, who are key financial contributors and political allies at campaign time,” New York City Charter Schools Center CEO James Merriman said in a statement.

SUNY’s Charter Schools Institute is set to vote on 17 proposed schools, and accepts public comments on new applications through October. Director of Charter School Information Catherine Kramer said that the comments “will be taken into consideration” by the Trustees.

The letter was submitted the same day that Families for Excellent Schools, a pro-charter advocacy group, released a report on “The Forgotten Fourth,” or the nearly quarter of New York City’s traditional public schools where 90 percent of students are not performing at grade level in reading or math. Over the past decade, the report says enrollment at these 371 schools has dropped by 46 percent.

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