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September 21, 2017
Private managers of public schools, charter leaders enjoy extra buffer from public-records laws
Moskowitz and officials at other charter school networks treated differently under FOIL law than those employed by government entities.
May 23, 2017
DeVos said rejecting choice plan would be a ‘terrible mistake.’ New York education advocates have a different take
At a discussion of school choice in New York City Tuesday morning, panelists seemed unfazed by Betsy DeVos's comments about school choice.
April 10, 2017
After heated debate, New York charter schools receive boost; school aid increases by $1.1 billion
The funding tug-of-war between charters and traditional public schools boiled over into a contentious fight, which contributed to a delayed state budget.
the final countdown
March 31, 2017
Hours left until budget deadline, New York state lawmakers squabble over charter schools
Charter school questions are one of the last things holding up the budget in Albany. Here's what you need to know.
charter freeze melting
January 30, 2017
De Blasio: Cuomo’s budget proposal forces city to shoulder charter school cost ‘to an exorbitant degree’
Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke out against some of Cuomo's charter school provisions today, arguing the city is being asked to pay too much for charter schools.
August 19, 2016
As war over charter schools rages on, what power does the city actually have?
Mayor Bill de Blasio inflamed his relationship with charter schools last week, but some argue there is little he can practically do to hamper charter school growth.
June 21, 2016
Charter advocacy group pushes city for more school space
Based on a new analysis of 2014 building utilization data, Families for Excellent Schools finds that 67 school buildings have space for more than 500 students.
diversity of opinion
September 17, 2015
State law keeps charters from helping to reduce New York school segregation, report says
In crucial ways, racial segregation in charter schools stems not only from the letter of New York’s law, but from its spirit, too.
August 27, 2015
Charter school where English scores spiked scored own state exams
The New York City charter school that made the largest gains on state English tests also made an unprecedented decision to grade its own students’ exams.
who rules the schools
June 9, 2015
Despite differences, Buery seeks support from charter schools on mayoral control
A top city official urged charter school leaders to support extending mayoral control.
May 15, 2015
Saying mayoral control is at stake, a charter leader asks de Blasio for support
Mayor Bill de Blasio will get what he wants on mayoral control if he helps lobby to raise the charter school cap, NYC Charter School Center CEO James Merriman insisted.
By the numbers
March 12, 2015
District and charter schools post similar attrition rates, as enrollment debate presses on
New research shows that low-performing students leave charter and district at similar rates. But a debate about what that means for charters is growing increasingly feisty.
March 5, 2015
A day in photos: Thousands of charter school advocates rally in Albany
The “Don’t Steal Possible” rally – organized by charter school advocates – brought thousands of people to the Capitol to call attention to the city’s struggling schools.
January 29, 2015
IBO: Charters do better than district schools at retaining students with disabilities
Reversing its earlier findings, the Independent Budget Office released numbers Thursday showing that charter schools have done a slightly better job retaining young students with disabilities than neighboring district schools.
November 21, 2014
Mulgrew joins charter leaders’ calls for city to release school enrollment data
Michael Mulgrew joined with charter school leaders in calling on the city to provide student discharge data for district and charter schools.
November 21, 2014
Charter CEO: Fariña has 'obligation' to release data after push-out claims
After Farina suggested on Thursday that some charter schools were pushing kids out ahead of tests and selectively recruiting high-performing students, Merriman fired back with a 400-word statement that called on her to use her authority as the city's top education official and investigate some of her suspicions.
change of pace
August 28, 2014
Education leaders urge patience for de Blasio's pre-K plans
Top city and state education officials said they were optimistic about pre-K, but also worked to manage expectations about the rollout of thousands of new seats at a discussion on Thursday.
March 28, 2014
Charter school leaders on last-minute lobbying spree as budget details emerge
Just hours before the state legislature is required to sign off on a budget, charter school leaders are frantically mobilizing against parts of a proposed compromise deal that would give some of their schools additional funds.
Transition at Tweed
February 22, 2014
Fariña meeting with charter sector yields conversation but no new answers
None of the major policy questions looming over the city's charter school sector got answered during the sector's highly anticipated first meeting with new Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña on Saturday. But several participants, including Fariña, said they that they thought the meeting had paved the way for good relations in the future.
By the numbers
January 9, 2014
IBO: Charter schools do better job retaining young students than district schools
The Independent Budget Office’s latest report shows that young students leave charter schools at lower rates than nearby district schools—though charter schools have a far worse record at retaining their students identified as having special needs.
September 20, 2013
NYC sitting out national move to tie charter, district admissions
Superintendent Seth Andrew at a 2012 Democracy Prep admissions lottery event. When the city announced last week that a kindergarten admissions website would link to the charter school application, it took a small first step toward unifying charter and district school applications. But there appears to be little local enthusiasm for a fully unified enrollment process—something that many of the nation's other large school districts are working toward with urgency. In Denver, parents can apply to every charter and district school through one form and a single process. In New Orleans, the same is possible, with the exception of some of the city's highest-performing charter schools. Newark is well on its way, as is Chicago, and similar discussions are taking place in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. But while there hasn't been any significant movement on that front yet in New York, city officials have indicated it's a long term goal. "Eventually, we plan to streamline the application process to allow parents to apply to many types of public school programs in one place – be they district, charter, gifted and talented, or otherwise," department spokesman Devon Puglia said. Pushing for an integrated enrollment system could help cement charter schools' place in the city's school system at a time of political uncertainty for the charter sector. But city charter school advocates have indicated that they are focused on other issues.
September 5, 2013
Facing federal funding freeze, Success to nix lottery preference
After becoming one of the state’s first schools to reserve seats for English language learners in its lotteries, Success Academy Charter Schools are now planning…
July 18, 2013
Charter advocates criticize UFT's lawsuit against city's planning
Charter school advocates are criticizing the UFT after the union filed a lawsuit that aims to curb the Bloomberg administration's ability to offer space to charter schools. The 15-page suit, filed today in State Supreme Court, asks for the city to be barred from proposing changes to how school buildings are used that would take effect after the first day of the following school year. The suit comes as the Department of Education considers plans, including charter school co-locations, that would not be implemented until 2015, nearly two years after Mayor Bloomberg leaves office. If a judge sides with the union, the department could try to set co-locations for the fall of 2014 this fall, but it could not plan further ahead, and plans that were approved last year for 2014 would be undone.
July 12, 2013
As it faces uncertain future, city's charter sector sharing lessons
A leading resource for New York City charter schools is preparing to lend its expertise out to school operators across the country. The New York City Charter School Center's expansion of an existing program, "Replicating Quality Schools," comes as the city’s charter sector faces an uncertain future. With Mayor Bloomberg, a longstanding charter supporter, leaving office at the end of the year, it is likely that the next mayor will not make it as easy for charter schools to open in public space, a cost-saving measure that has allowed the charter sector to flourish over the last decade. Elsewhere in the country, the outlook for the publicly financed but privately managed schools is more favorable. So the charter center announced this week that it plans to help charter operators set up new schools in other cities, using a 2011 program for city charter schools that aimed to duplicate as a blueprint.
July 9, 2013
Charter advocates say candidates' rhetoric isn't cause for panic
City Journal editor Brian Anderson speaks at a breakfast panel discussion today about the future of education in New York City hosted by the Manhattan Institute. Some Democratic mayoral candidates are calling for a moratorium on charter school co-locations and at least two have said they would require charter schools to pay rent. But charter school advocates say they remain not too concerned. "We should be worried ... [but] I don't think we should be panicked," said James Merriman, CEO of the New York City Charter School Center, this morning at a panel discussion about the future of education in New York City hosted by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a right-wing think tank. Merriman joined Marcus Winters, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and Joe Williams, executive director for Democrats for Education Reform, on the panel. Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott also made an appearance to warn against moving away from the Bloomberg administration's school policies, which include helping the charter sector to flourish. Republican mayoral candidate George McDonald and Independent mayoral candidate Adolfo Carrión, who have each expressed support for charter schools, sat in the audience.
July 8, 2013
State looks to tighten leash on student mobility data for charters
Already a lightning rod in the city's mayoral race, charter school enrollment patterns are getting renewed scrutiny at the state level. Chancellor Merryl Tisch and her colleagues on the Board of Regents have asked state education officials for months to increase transparency around student attrition data for charter schools. At June's Board of Regents meeting, Tisch echoed concerns from critics who charge that some charter schools prop up their test scores by encouraging high-need students to enroll elsewhere. "I would make a list of charter schools that have ushered out 5 [or] 10 percent of their kids in the first six [or] seven weeks," Tisch said. "Make a list of the ones who are ushering them out right before testing." Now, state education officials have announced that they are developing a way to spotlight exactly that issue. A proposed "stability index" would use regularly reported enrollment data to flag suspicious trends, such as high discharge rates at the beginning of the year or right before state testing at the end of the year.
May 7, 2013
In new ad campaign, city's charter sector aims to explain itself
On each side of the split screen, a girl with long hair and a puffy white coat walks to school, where she works on a writing assignment, raises her hand to answer a question, watches the clock, and walks past a bulletin board plastered with student work. Then the divider disappears and the two girls leave the building hand in hand to stack blocks on a crowded playground.
April 16, 2013
Number of charter school common apps nearly tripled this year
The number of families applying to city charter schools through an online system designed to ease the admissions process doubled this year, according to the New York City Charter School Center. This was the second year that the Common Online Charter Application, which the charter center developed, was open to all charter schools for use. The application deadline was April 1. The number of individual students who submitted the common application rose from 7,130 last year to 15,805 this year. Together, they submitted 58,117 applications, more than three times as many as last year, meaning that the average applicant applied to more schools this year. A total of 145 schools, up from 110 last year, accepted the common application. (Many schools also had their own applications, so the number of common applicants does not reflect all charter school applicants this year.) In offering a common application, the charter center is responding to criticism that having to fill out multiple schools' applications discourages all but the most motivated parents and effectively screens out needy students. The common application also enables families to apply easily to multiple schools — a data point the charter sector points to as evidence that the public wants more charter schools.
February 5, 2013
Eyeing Cuomo's grants, charter sector sees a pre-K opportunity
Charter schools want to piggyback on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's plan to expand pre-kindergarten across the state. But in order to benefit from Cuomo's $25 million in pre-K grants, the schools first must win the right to offer pre-K classes. Pushing for that right is at the top of charter school supporters' agenda today as they convene in Albany as part of the charter sector's annual advocacy day. The parents will meet in the Albany Convention Center with more than a dozen legislators, then spend the rest of the day visiting their district representatives. They're not the only ones lobbying lawmakers over pre-K this week. On Monday, police chiefs, principals, and education groups from around the state declared their support for Cuomo's pre-K grants, which represent a fraction of the $385 million that the state spends annually on pre-kindergarten. The charter sector's lobbying efforts are not so straightforward, because the state's 1998 law authorizing the schools grants them the right to serve students in kindergarten to 12th grade only. Legislators would have to change to the law — last revised in 2010 amid heavy controversy — to allow pre-kindergarten in charter schools. "It's our job to talk to lawmakers and say to them, 'Hey, does it really makes sense to a have a program where some really good schools don't have the ability to do full-day pre-K?'" said James Merriman, CEO of the New York City Charter Center.
December 12, 2012
Facing own teacher eval deadline, charter schools just say no
wallyg via flickr At the same time as the State Education Department is publicly pressuring school districts to adopt new teacher evaluations by next month, it's also quietly demanding that charter schools turn in their teachers’ ratings from last year. Charter school advocates are urging most school leaders to ignore the demand, even though state officials have said it's needed in order to fulfill its Race to the Top plan. The advocates say the demand would be hard to fulfill and impinges on charter schools’ autonomy. The standoff has its roots in the state’s 2010 application for federal Race to the Top funds. In its application to the U.S. Department of Education for funding, New York State said it would require schools to rate teachers according to specific guidelines and would collect ratings for all teachers, even in charter schools. Some charter schools committed to sharing their teacher ratings at the time in order to receive some of the state’s $700 million in winnings. But two thirds did not — and the state wants their teacher ratings too, according to a series of updated guidance memos that officials have issued over the last 18 months. City and state charter school advocates have pushed back against the demands throughout that time. “Both the New York City Charter School Center and the New York Charter Schools Association believe that this reporting requirement does not properly apply to non-Race to the Top charter schools,” Charter Center CEO James Merriman and NYCSA President Bill Phillips wrote in a strongly worded email to school leaders last month. They added, “Ultimately, it is up to you whether you choose to report this data.” So far, few school leaders have made that choice. By the original submission deadline Nov. 30, just 30 of 184 charter schools in the state had handed over teacher ratings from last year.
August 3, 2012
In quest for better leaders, charter sector program looks inward
Niomi Plotkin, center, talks to John Harrison and other charter school leaders during the ELF orientation. For the city's charter sector, the task of building better leaders begins with self-reflection. The project of understanding what makes a good leader — particularly for charter schools, which have some of the highest principal turnover rates — is what consumes the 20-odd educators who gathered at the New York City Charter School Center this week to kick off the sixth year of its leadership training program. When they return to their schools later this month, the educators will face diverse challenges. One pair comes from a school that has nearly doubled in size faster than expected due to make up a budget shortfall. Another is from a rare standalone school serving kindergarten through 12th graders, which will be preparing its first cohort of students to graduate and apply to college next year. But on a recent morning, all of the participants were focused on the same question as Heidi Brooks, a professor from the Yale University School of Management, talked them through a platitude-heavy presentation about identifying leadership qualities. "How would you describe yourself as a leader? How do you describe a great leader?" Brooks asked the group, then began taking down their answers until ink filled a sheet of poster paper. "Positive," "self-aware," and "systems-aware" topped the list of traits.
July 30, 2012
Charter school opts out of free public space in favor of a gym
Urban Dove's website features a clock that is counting down to the first day of classes at the nonprofit's new charter school. For most of this spring, Urban Dove Team Charter School’s story followed a familiar trajectory. When the Department of Education offered the charter school space in a public school building, the community erupted in opposition. Politicians stepped in, principals went to the press, and parents protested — all with the goal of keeping the charter school out. Then the city signed off on the co-location anyway, and tensions started to die down. That’s when Urban Dove’s story took an unusual turn. Despite getting free public space — a hotly sought-after commodity — Urban Dove signed a lease this month to spend some of its scarce per-pupil funding on private space. Next month, the transfer high school will open on one floor of Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Brooklyn Tabernacle Church. It was a rare move for a charter school offered a public building. Most charter schools prefer to open in buildings owned by the city to save money and time spent negotiating with landlords, according to James Merriman, director of the New York City Charter School Center. Plus, money for real estate comes from charter schools' operating budget — meaning the more they spend on space, the less they have for teachers, supplies, and programming. Urban Dove’s founder and principal each declined to share the terms of the lease. But they said undertaking the significant expense made perfect sense for the school, which will serve students who have already fallen behind before they turn 16.
July 27, 2012
City charter sector sharing in struggle for strong school leaders
One thing that district and charter schools have in common is a need for strong principals. That's what James Merriman, a lead advocate for the city's charter sector, told Gov. Andrew Cuomo's education reform commission on Thursday. "Charter schools understand and public school leaders understand that a successful school culture is ultimately the responsibility first and foremost of a school leader," said Merriman, who leads the New York City Charter School Center. "But here's the tricky part," he said. "We don't have enough of them. We don't have enough of them in the charter sector; we don't have enough of them in the public schools." The Bloomberg administration tackled principal preparation in one of its earliest education initiatives, a training program called the Leadership Academy. But the program's graduates have ranged in quality, with some leading successful schools and others being criticized for creating dysfunctional work environments. The program has shrunk over time, and in January, a top Department of Education official told a group of principals who are affiliated with Teachers College's Cahn Fellows program that the city has not succeeded at maintaining uniformly strong principal quality . The problem of where to find strong school leaders is more acute in the charter sector, where principal turnover is five times higher than in district schools. Merriman told the commission he had no concrete solutions for boosting principal quality. But he believes that an annual principal training program that his organization runs, which begins next week, could at least begin to chip away at the problem.
July 12, 2012
Emails illuminate SUNY's 2010 bid to keep authorizing charters
A chart from a 2010 analysis that compared charter schools' performance by authorizer. When a researcher with a penchant for crunching charter school data sat down to compare New York State's charter authorizers in 2010, her impetus wasn't merely academic. For Jonas Chartock, then the director of one of three authorizers, who requested an analysis, the data was a matter of survival. “At the time there was a real push by some politicians to eliminate SUNY as an authorizer,” said Chartock, who headed SUNY's Charter School Institute until early 2011. Chartock asked Macke Raymond, a Stanford researcher who had just wrapped up a broad study of New York City's charter sector, to examine her school performance data based on which office had authorized it. Her comparison showed up as an attachment to one of several hundred Department of Education emails released last week in response to a teachers union's Freedom of Information Law request. Raymond found that students at SUNY-authorized charter schools improved at a quicker pace than students at schools authorized by the State Education Department and the city Department of Education. At schools authorized by SED, she found, students actually lost ground over time.
May 29, 2012
Law keeping mid-year arrivals out of charters could have a fix
Brooklyn Prospect Charter School students listen to a sports writer speak during February's Career Day. The phone calls are bad, but the visitors are the toughest to reject. That's how Daniel Rubenstein feels about the admission requests that his charter school, Brooklyn Prospect, gets each summer from families who moved to the neighborhood after the school’s April lottery. “This is a population that needs to be in a good school,” Rubenstein said. “Our school — which is a small, relationship-driven, intimate environment — would be better for someone that needs a community.” But by law, Rubenstein must turn the families away. The state's charter school law does not make provisions for schools to reserve seats for students who arrive to the city from far-flung locales after their April admissions lotteries. That means that charter schools, which are charged with serving the city's neediest students, must exclude some of the students with the greatest need. But after lobbying by Rubenstein and other charter operators, as well as by officials at the city Department of Education, one of the state's charter authorizers is working on an option that would allow charter schools to open their doors in the middle of the year.
May 17, 2012
Charter school leaders sound caution about enrollment targets
Eva Moskowitz and her charter school network are objecting to new targets meant to push charter schools to enroll a fair share of students with disabilities and English language learners. When they revised the state's charter schools law in 2010, legislators included a requirement that the schools register a "comparable" number of high-needs students. Now the state has proposed a methodology to calculate enrollment targets for charter schools based on how many students attend the school and the overall ratio of high-needs students in each district. Schools that currently enroll too few students with special needs will be required to show at least a "good-faith" effort to enroll more. But a top official in the Success Academies network said Wednesday that she objected to any such requirement. Setting enrollment targets creates a disincentive for schools to help students get to the point that they no longer need special services, said Emily Kim, general counselor for the Success Academies network. "For us, our goal is not to hit a number and stay at that number for English language learners," Kim said. "Our goal is that they learn English, that they perform at the highest levels, and that they graduate from high school college ready and are successful in life." "So if our figures go down, we're proud of that," she added. UPDATE: A state education official said the proposed targets would not penalize schools schools if their students are declassified as special education or ELL. Through what's being called a "three year lag," schools would get credit for students who had been classified anytime in the last three years. "With the three-year lag, there is little to no chance that there will be a dinging of schools for declassification of a child," said Assistant Commissioner Sally Bachofer, who helped developed the targets.
April 30, 2012
Delayed charter sector self-assessment balances praise, critique
A chart comparing district and charter schools' principal turnover rates, from today's "State of the Sector" report. A sweeping look at who attends charter schools in New York City, and how they fare, shows that the sector excels at advancing academic achievement but struggles to enroll high-needs students and to retain staff. For the past nine months the New York City Charter School Center and a team of charter school founders have collected and crunched data on 35 different topics, including test scores, demographics, attrition, and enrollment. Their findings are laid out in a much-anticipated — and much-delayed — 40-page "State of the Sector" report, released today. The report represents an inaugural effort to be more transparent about how charter schools in New York City are doing. Coming from a group that more often celebrates charter schools' achievements, the report offers a blunt self-assessment of the sector, illuminating its shortcomings in student enrollment and staff retention while at the same making a case for it to continue to expand. For instance, the report acknowledges "striking" staff attrition trends — nearly one-third of city charter school teachers leave annually — but points out the sector's ability to achieve high academic results anyway. And while the schools serve low rates of students with special education and English language learners, the report emphasizes that those who do enroll tend to do better than their counterparts in district schools. The report was originally scheduled to be released nearly two months ago. But the center needed more time to verify the data, then held the report until it could be released along with "dashboards" showing individual schools' statistics, according to CEO James Merriman. Those dashboards were published on the center's website today, although they have withheld some data, including staff attrition.
April 27, 2012
IBO: Charter school rent, ATR reform should be budget options
Slashing parent coordinators, charging rent to charter schools, and limiting time spent in the Absent Teacher Reserve are among the menu items that the city's budget watchdog said could save the city hundreds of millions of dollars. The Independent Budget Office released its annual list of options that it believes city government officials should consider as they head into their final negotiations before adopting a budget for the 2013 fiscal year. The Department of Education, an agency that eats up about one-third of the $67 billion citywide budget, was listed in 10 of the 72 recommendations. The IBO estimated that the city could raise $53 million in revenue by charging rent to charter schools and save $28 million if it slashed its summer school program. The ideas reflected policy positions from all corners of the ideological map. Some of the proposals can also be found on a list of contract demands the city made in 2010. But others are straight from the teachers union's wishlist.
February 28, 2012
City releases ratings for teachers in charter, District 75 schools
The Department of Education released a final installment of Teacher Data Reports today, for teachers in charter schools and schools for the most severely disabled students. Last week, the city released the underlying data from about 53,000 reports for about 18,000 teachers who received them during the project's three-year lifespan. Teachers received the reports between 2008 and 2010 if they taught reading or math in grades 4 through 8. When the department first announced that it would be releasing the data in response to several news organizations' Freedom of Information Law requests, it indicated that ratings for teachers in charter schools would not be made public. It reversed that decision late last week and today released "value-added" data for 217 charter school teachers. Participation in the data reports program was optional for charter schools and some schools entered and exited the program in each year that it operated, with eight schools participating in 2007-2008 and 18 participating in 2009-2010. At the time, the city had about 100 charter schools. The department also released reports for 50 teachers in District 75 schools, which enroll the city's most severely disabled students. The number is small because few District 75 students take regular state math and reading exams. Also, District 75 classes are typically very small, and privacy laws led the city to release data for teachers who had more than 10 students take state tests. District 75 also teachers received reports only in 2008 and 2010; the program was optional in the district's schools in 2009. Department officials cautioned last week that the reports had high margins of error — 35 percentage points for math teachers and 53 percentage points for reading teachers, on average — and urged caution when interpreting them.
October 17, 2011
In quest for quality, charter advocates push careful planning
On a recent afternoon, dozens of teachers, social workers, and non-profit administrators, pored over the academic calendars of several charter schools. They were studying how a school can express its mission in the way it builds its calendar. “There’s a lot to think about: Summer school — would that be mandatory?” asked Simeon Stolzberg, a former charter school authorizer who was leading the exercise. “You could have a year-round school, and maybe every eight weeks there would be a two-week vacation. Think about whether or not there is time in a day for teachers to plan and prep and grade — and eat lunch.” Some of the teachers laughed, but Stolzberg was completely serious. “Your calendar is one of the things that will set you a part from a district school,” he told the group, participants in a new program, Apply Right, that is helping prospective charter school leaders by taking them through the most minute details of school planning. The program and two others, projects of the nonprofit New York City Charter School Center, reflect a growing sense that charter school leaders need more support than they have been getting. "There were a number of schools that were approved in the last five years that frankly probably should not have been approved,” said James Merriman, the center’s director. “What I think we are seeing is that the bar of entry is being appropriately raised. … We want to see more charter schools, but we’re only really interested in seeing high-quality schools.”
July 21, 2011
Judge rejects UFT-NAACP claims, allows co-locations, closures
A State Supreme Court judge has ruled that the city can move forward with its plans for 22 school closure and 15 co-locations. In May, the UFT and NAACP filed a suit charging that the city had not adhered to the law and its own promises when planning the closures and charter school co-locations. In a decision released late tonight, Judge Paul Feinman denied the UFT and NAACP's request for a preliminary injunction that would have stopped the city from moving forward with its closure and co-location plans while those charges are considered. A temporary restraining order preventing the plans from advancing had been in place since early June. Feinman's decision came just hours after State Education Commissioner John King approved 12 of the closures, of schools on the state's list of "persistently low-achieving" schools. The UFT and NAACP suit had argued that the city could not close schools on that list without state approval. Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott applauded the decision, which he said validated the Bloomberg administration's approach to fixing low-performing schools.
June 23, 2011
Charter school backers decline offer to apologize to NAACP
A small window of opportunity to resume settlement talks between dueling sides in the charter school co-location lawsuit has been slammed shut. On Tuesday,…
June 23, 2011
For newly-freed charter schools, different paths to dismissal
The three schools released from the UFT and NAACP lawsuit this week followed different paths to legal freedom. The case for one of the schools relied on a broad base of community support, but a single man, Geoffrey Canada, made the case for the other two schools. Charter school advocates believe Canada's profile as a well-regarded, African-American education reformer made him an unpopular target for the NAACP. They say the decision to drop these schools from the lawsuit, which charges that the co-locations give preferential treatment to charter school students, weren't made on legal merits. "It makes it pretty clear that it’s not about equity. It's not about the children," said Rafiq Kalam Id-Din II, whose new school in Bedford-Stuyvesant is named in the suit. "This is about politics." Girls Preparatory Academy was unique from the other 17 schools named in the suit because its co-location plan had already received widespread community support. At the initial public hearing in February, both of the schools' leaders endorsed co-location, as did Lisa Donlan, the district's Community Education Council president and a frequent charter school critic. “There was not one person who opposed this co-location,” Donlan said.
May 23, 2011
In Washington Heights, a basic education on charter schools
Last December, Community Board 12’s executive committee was discussing charter schools when committee members realized something: There were almost as many different perceptions of charter schools as there were people in the room. This epiphany, recalled board chair Pamela Palanque-North, was the inspiration for a forum the board held Saturday to give Washington Heights residents the basic facts about charter schools. “This is an opportunity for us to have something called an educational intervention,” Palanque-North said in her opening remarks at the forum, titled “Our Children, Our Choices: An Informative Discussion on Public and Charter School Options." About 35 neighborhood residents attended the event, which was organized by the board's youth and education committee and translated live into Spanish. The panel included charter school advocates and also critics, such as sociologist Pedro Noguera and the public school teacher who directed a new movie that takes aim at the idea that charter schools can fix all educational ills. But perhaps as notable as who sat on the panel was who did not: a representative from the city Department of Education. Community Board 12 had advertised that Chancellor Dennis Walcott would speak on the morning's first panel, although DOE officials said Walcott had never agreed to appear.
June 14, 2010
Charter leaders will ask City Hall for budget help tomorrow
Charter school heads will visit City Hall tomorrow to present Mayor Bloomberg with an audacious request: They would like him to go over state lawmakers' heads and restore a funding freeze that Albany probably won't. This year, lawmakers froze charter schools' per-pupil funding levels at last year's level, denying school leaders almost $1,000 per student in an expected increase. Given the rotten budget climate, it's likely the legislature will do the same to next year's budget. To fight back, charter school leaders tomorrow will meet with Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott — and, they hope, with Bloomberg, too — to suggest two possible solutions. Bloomberg can either "negotiate with Albany to remove the freeze," as Charter School Center head James Merriman wrote in an e-mail last week. Or, Merriman wrote: he can substitute other funds in the City's own budget.
March 12, 2010
Co-location debate needs to move from arguments to facts
When it comes to New York City charter schools' co-location in district buildings, the current debate has generated far more heat than light-and even the heat is exaggerated. The casual observer could be forgiven for thinking something like this: Charter school co-location involves widespread "space wars" provoked by elitist outsiders who invade neighborhood schools, exacerbate over-crowding, and take more than their share of scarce resources." Yet every one of these impressions is wrong. In this column, I'll explain why, and I'll also offer my suggestion for a way to make the co-location process more fact-based. 1. Charter school students are neighbors, not invaders. They come from the same districts and communities as children in co-located public schools. They are public school students, who would still need to be educated in a neighborhood school building if charter schools disappeared tomorrow. No, charter students aren't statistically identical in every respect; at the district level, charter students are more likely to be African American and somewhat less likely to have special needs (the reasons for this are complicated).
January 13, 2010
Albany seeks trade: more charters, but change in who grants them
Assembly Democrats are ready to approve a lift to the state's charter school cap — but only if they get a substantial change to the way charter schools are launched and approved in return. Under the plan being developed by members of the state Assembly, the power to approve charters would be consolidated under the state Board of Regents, who currently share that authority with the State University of New York and local school districts. (Schools authorized by a school district are also granted final approval by the Regents.) The SUNY office has the strongest reputation and has been praised by the Obama administration as a model for developing charter schools around the country. The plan would also change who decides when and where a new charter school is needed. Right now, wannabe school leaders pitch plans to either SUNY or the Regents, who let the school open if the plan is solid and there are spots available under the cap. Under the Assembly proposal, the state education department would determine when and where a new charter school should open, and would then issue a request for proposals from charter school operators to launch the school. Formal language on the proposal has not yet emerged, but there is consensus on the contours of the plan, sources said. "It makes sense to have one authority," said Democratic Assemblyman Alan Maisel.
May 11, 2009
Queens charter schools enter the fray with information campaign
Spurred by a series of meetings held by Queens' borough president, charter school administrators, parents and students are gathering at The Renaissance Charter School in Queens to dispel “misinformation” about their schools in a discussion on Wednesday night. Queens is far from the center of the city’s charter school debate, which has been raging in Manhattan and Brooklyn, but with the opening of two new charters in as many years, and increased attention to the issue city-wide, some parents and elected officials have voiced their opposition to the schools. Nicholas Tishuk, the Director of Programs and Accountability at Renaissance and the organizer of the event, said that the discussion is the beginning of an “information campaign” targeted at charter school critics. Principals of two other Queens' charter schools, VOICE and OWN, will participate in the panel. Tishuk has been attending Queens Borough President Helen Marshall’s monthly Advisory Board meetings, where he said charter schools dominate the conversation. (Marshall said in February she has " fought against charter schools.”) He invited some of the most outspoken critics at Marshall’s meetings to Wednesday’s discussion, hoping to show them that charter schools aren’t “this big bad thing.” “We're all mom and pop schools here,” Tishuk said. “We're all single-standing schools that are not ‘invading’ communities.” Tishuk wants to address complaints that charter schools take away funding from regular schools, aren’t connected to communities, and counsel out “problem kids”—none of which apply to Queens’ schools, he says. Queens will have six charter schools next fall, including the city’s biggest, Our World Neighborhood Charter School. VOICE charter school started in 2008, and Growing Up Green, in Long Island City, opens this fall. VOICE is using a Department of Education school location for now, while the borough’s other charter schools occupy their own space. In Brooklyn and Manhattan, charter schools taking over public school space is a hot-button issue, one that has mostly been avoided in Queens.
April 2, 2009
Charter schools celebrating possible reversal of budget cut
Charter school supporters say they are on the brink of a victory in their battle to restore about $1,000 per student in funds that lawmakers tugged out of next year's state budget. They expect that Malcolm Smith, the State Senate majority leader, will restore the funds to charter schools through a last-minute appropriation of Senate funds. "We’re hoping that Senator Smith will be able to, through his good offices, get our funding restored," said James Merriman, the executive director of the New York City Center for Charter School Excellence. The message comes after charter schools spent the last two days badgering Smith, whom they had counted as a strong ally. One Queens school that says it is slated to face a $600,000 cut held a rally, while others sent in form letters to Smith declaring, "We thought you were a supporter of charter schools. This budget betrays that support." Charter lobbyists also rushed out e-mails urging "parents, trustees, and supporters" to call Governor Paterson and Smith asking for help. But the charter lobbyists reversed their position on Tuesday afternoon, sending out an e-mail declaring that the efforts had paid off. The full text of their letter is below the jump. A spokeswoman for Smith did not return a phone call immediately today. Merriman said he can't 100 percent guarantee that Smith will fill the funding gaps. "He hasn’t told me, but we’re certainly hoping that he will do everything he can," he said.
March 17, 2009
To make Catholic schools charters, city could try to skirt state law
When Mayor Bloomberg announced his intention to turn four struggling Catholic schools into charter schools, observers assumed that the plan would require a…
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