Lawmakers in New York’s Capitol have been consumed with a heated fight over the budget, which will determine the future of education spending, fate of charter schools and whether the state will pick up students’ tab for college tuition.
The drama continued into Sunday night, when Governor Andrew Cuomo, around midnight, said he would introduce an “extender” of the current budget to keep the government functioning until May 31 — and that legislative leaders have agreed to approve the measure by Monday afternoon.
But across the street at the State Education Department building, policymakers are also meeting, though the agenda is likely to spark fewer fireworks.
The Board of Regents appears poised to send a series of Success Academy charter school renewals back to their authorizer with comments, rather than approve them, saying that SUNY jumped the gun and has proposed renewing them too early.
It would be a largely symbolic gesture, since the Regents do not have final say over the controversial charter network, according to SUNY officials, but they say the move is a break from precedent.
The Regents will also talk about creating standards for the arts — which has some bearing on the Regents’ goal of revamping graduation requirements. And they will discuss how to reshape education policy under the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act.
Here’s more on the meeting items:
The Board of Regents plans to vote on whether to kick 10 proposed Success Academy charter school renewals back to SUNY, saying they were renewed too early.
Success Academy, New York City’s largest charter school network, is authorized by SUNY, but the Regents have the power to suggest changes and send the renewals back to SUNY for further consideration.
State officials say SUNY is giving Success schools full-term renewals, even though they are not technically up for renewal until either 2018 or 2020. The Regents materials indicate this is a departure from normal practice. Officials argued that it’s important to renew charters at the appropriate date, in order to review the most recent data in areas including student enrollment.
SUNY officials said it is normal practice for SUNY to give early renewals in some cases. Susie Miller Carello, executive director of the SUNY Charter Schools Institute, said the institute has done so several times in the past. But the last time the Regents sent any decision back to SUNY with comments was seven years ago, she said.
The State Education Department sees the renewal situation differently. “According to our records, there is no precedence for a charter to be submitted to the Board of Regents other than in the last academic year of the charter, which we believe is good practice and is in line with the intent of the law,” wrote a spokesperson via email.
In the end, SUNY will make the final decision, so tomorrow’s vote wouldn’t derail the renewals, said Joseph Belluck, the charter school committee chair on the SUNY board of trustees. He said he does not see any reason the board would modify its original request, but said he disagrees with state officials’ interpretation.
“I am extremely troubled by the Regents rejection of these schools,” Belluck said. “It seems to me that there isn’t a single substantive basis for the rejection.”
Several Regents and Chancellor Betty Rosa have raised concerns about charter schools in the past — specifically that they do not always enroll enough high-needs students. Success Academy is at the epicenter of this debate. The networks’ schools have produced very high test scores, but critics have long held they do so by kicking out students who are hardest to serve.
The Regents will vote to adopt a “strategic plan for the arts,” which includes a vow to revise arts education standards, discussions about how to use the arts as an alternative graduation pathway, and a plan to improve mentorship and research opportunities. Policymakers will also vote to adopt a timeline for the new arts standards, which, if all goes as scheduled, would be fully implemented in the 2018-19 school year.
On Tuesday, the Regents will recap their March meeting, where they had a day-long retreat to discuss how the state will reshape education policy under the Every Student Succeeds Act. There are no items posted for this meeting yet, but the material says they will “provide direction to department staff.”
Computer science teachers
The Regents will hear a presentation about establishing a computer science teaching certificate. That may be particularly consequential for New York City schools, since Mayor Bill de Blasio has made providing computer science education in every school a major priority. One of the biggest hurdles to expanding computer science education is finding qualified teachers.