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Assembly Speaker Heastie: SUNY charter schools should abide by existing rules

Speaker Carl Heastie on the Assembly floor.
Speaker Carl Heastie on the Assembly floor.
Geoff Decker/Chalkbeat

New York State Assembly leader Carl Heastie jumped into the fray over charter school rules, making it clear on Monday that he disagrees with State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan’s push to free charters from some city regulations.

In a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo, Heastie argued that last-minute legislation passed in June does not allow SUNY-authorized charter schools to circumvent local rules, such as the city’s pre-K contract. That point is important to Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz, who refused to sign the city’s pre-K contract, arguing that it is illegal and unfairly burdens charter schools.

Last week, the New York Times reported that Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan had written to Cuomo, suggesting that SUNY, which oversees many of the city’s charter schools, could exempt the schools from “rules and regulations that were hampering innovative teaching and learning.” Flanagan’s letter doesn’t mention Success Academy by name but refers specifically to “high-performing charters” that opted out of the pre-k program “because the regulatory burden imposed by NYCDOE was too high.”

Heastie has a different spin on the law. “The Legislature did not intend to delegate to SUNY broad authority to regulate charter schools it oversees,” he wrote in his letter, which is co-signed by education committee chair Cathy Nolan. “Nor did it intend to empower SUNY to adopt regulations that are inconsistent with current laws governing charter schools including, but not limited to, laws related to teacher certification requirements, participation in pre-kindergarten programs, and co-location of charter schools within traditional public schools.”

SUNY is still sorting through what the law allows, said Joseph Belluck, who chairs the committee that governs SUNY’s Charter Schools Institute. But he hopes that in the end, the legislation will allow SUNY greater oversight.

“This is somebody saying to us, ‘You’re responsible for the car, but we’re going to give somebody else responsibility for the right tire on the car,’” Belluck said about authorizing charter schools while the city oversees their pre-K programs. “There’s a mixture of oversight here that is a concern to me.”

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