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De Blasio: Cuomo’s budget proposal forces city to shoulder charter school cost ‘to an exorbitant degree’

Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Mayor Bill de Blasio blasted Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent charter school proposals at a state budget hearing Monday, arguing the changes would require the city to shoulder too much additional cost.

The governor’s budget proposal would force the city to pay nearly $200 million extra for charter schools, according to de Blasio. Costs would be shifted “abruptly and to an exorbitant degree,” the mayor said, depriving district schools of funding.

Cuomo’s budget would also raise the charter school cap in New York City by creating one statewide limit rather than separate caps for city and state. In his testimony before state lawmakers, Blasio dismissed the need to lift the city’s current charter school cap. Citing the 30 charter school slots remaining in New York City, he said, “This is ample and there is no need to raise the cap at this time,” according to a transcript of his testimony.

Charter school advocates quickly weighed in, disagreeing with the mayor’s assessments on both fronts. Over the past few years, the formula that funds charter schools has remained frozen while the state provided supplemental money to partially make up the difference, said James Merriman, CEO of the New York City Charter School Center. But the plan was always intended to end this year, with the city expected to shoulder additional charter school costs after that, he said.

“What the city’s doing is trying to reframe the debate and recast the deal,” Merriman said. “They’re trying to claim that the state is cost-shifting to the city, when in fact the city is trying to cost-shift to the state.”

The mayor’s comments on Monday are the latest in a longstanding feud with the charter sector, whose advocates argue he is not supportive of their cause. Last year, as the mayor asked for an extension of control over the city’s schools, he sparked a similar argument over charter school funding. And when charter schools outperformed district schools on state exams last year, he criticized their approach to test prep.

Also during Monday’s testimony, the mayor asked for a “multi-year” renewal of mayoral control. Last year, de Blasio received only a one-year extension of mayoral control for the second year in a row, a testament to his rocky relationship with Senate Republicans.

The mayor also spoke out against Cuomo’s controversial proposal to alter the state’s foundation aid formula, which critics say waives the state’s commitment to fully fund high-need schools, as promised under the decade-old Campaign for Fiscal Equity settlement. (The governor’s office disputes that a set amount is owed to school districts.)

On Monday, de Blasio appears to agree with critics, arguing the state must continue its commitment to fully funding the formula.

“We are doing our part to provide equitable funding to our schools but we need the state’s partnership,” he said, “and we need the state to do more.”

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