Monday, November 23, 2009

New Report on Charter Cap

New York is capped out from approving more charters.

This is because the Regents and New York City Schools Chancellor will have reached their cap of 100 by early next year, as I wrote in the New York Post October 6th (and here) based on the number of charter schools already under review by the Regents.

A new report issued today by the New York City Charter School Center (here) further approximates that 40 planning teams are in the pipeline for the 18 remaining charters available from SUNY's cap of 100. The Center's report received media coverage today.

As a reminder, there are actually two charter caps: 100 for the Regents and 100 for SUNY, adding to the total of 200 typically reported in the media. The Regents will hit their own first, and SUNY likely will do so by the middle of next calendar year.

It takes at least two years from the time a charter school is prepared to when it gets open based on the months-long review and approval process combined with the planning time necessary to prepare for opening of a new school. (This was illustrated on page 6 of the Center's report).

Delay Means Loss
From the time a charter school is planned, it's usually longer since the process of assembling a planning team and piecing together a lengthy, detailed and worthy charter school application properly takes many months before submitting it to an authorizer. That's the rub; those essential efforts will be in limbo until the legislature gets around to raising the cap.

James Merriman, CEO of the Charter Center, rightly takes issue with the contention (expressed by state Education Commissioner David Steiner and Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch) that the cap will be raised once it is reached. Merriman countered: "If you wait until every last charter is given to start talking about raising the cap, you will already have lost a year's worth of schools -- some of them forever."

In 2007-08, for example, only three new charter schools were opened that year, each of which were approved two years prior but used extra planning time. The reason? New York State hit its first cap of 100 (50 each for SUNY and the Regents) and none were approved for 18 months during 2006 and the first half of 2007 as we waited for the legislature to raise the cap.

That's why the legislature should raise it now, rather than six months or a year from now. With all the information we had in early 2007 demonstrating the effectiveness of charter schools (which convinced new Gov. Spitzer to push for a cap-lift), there is even more information today that further confirms the educational benefits for children.

Gov. Paterson Can Force Education Reform
Gov. Paterson missed the opportunity to put a charter cap lift proposal on his legislative agenda this month when he called the legislature back to Albany to cut state spending. Raising the cap would enhance the state's chances for Race to the Top funding, which New York desperately needs. Of course, the teacher unions, Regents and many state legislators don't want to be bothered with a cap lift, so he didn't bother.

It's not too late for the Governor to lead. Introducing a cap lift and other education reform measures to attract federal dollars will make his other budget cuts more palatable. The Governor also holds the kind of leverage his predecessors coveted: he can force a recalcitrant and pusillanimous Regents and legislature to do his bidding since he must give final sign-off on the state's Race to the Top application. In effect, he can force change in a pro-charter, education reform direction, if he wants.

Imagine that. He's got nothing to lose by doing so, and everything to gain.

Peter Murphy
for The Chalkboard

Disclaimer: The Chalkboard is hosted by the New York Charter Schools Association (NYCSA) as a place where members, public education advocates and others can view and respond to informed commentary on timely public education and charter school issues. The views expressed here are not necessarily the official views of the NYCSA, its board, or of any of its individual charter school members. Anyone who claims otherwise is violating the spirit and purpose of this blog. To comment on anything you read here, or to offer tips, advice, comments, or complaints. please contact TheChalkboard.