A new bill challenging the expansion of New York charter schools was sponsored by Assembly Education Committee Chair Michael Benedetto (D-Bronx). The bill will prevent the expansion of existing charter schools, ensuring they do not increase their grade offering as their students grow older. Charter schools have been accused by their opponents of taking advantage of a “loophole” that allows the expansion of grade offerings.
Assemblymember Benedetto said, “There’s a whole multitude of problems that exist with arbitrarily letting a charter expand their horizons, and where does it stop?” The legislation was introduced by State Senate Education Committee Chair Shelley Mayer but has not made any progress in two previous sessions.
Charter schools have proved to be a contentious point in Governor Kathy Hochul’s administration. Governor Hochul has previously stated that she hopes to see the number of charter schools in New York State increase. Currently, 460 charter schools are allowed to operate statewide in New York. This desire is shared by parents who want their children to have a variety of options to choose from when it comes to their education. Some parents have even gone to the extent of protesting to have more charter schools in New York City. At the same time, charter schools have opponents who are mainly the teachers’ unions in New York and the politicians who support them.
Charter schools have become an integral part of Governor Hochul’s current budget discussions. The charter school issue is one of the reasons why there has been a delay in Governor Hochul’s final budget.
Governor Hochul has notably been making efforts to convince Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins of the importance of charter schools. Governor Hochul reportedly has two proposals on the table with the first one being the removal of the 275-charter cap. The second proposal would be to reissue “zombie” charter schools their licenses. Zombie charter schools are those that once operated but eventually closed.
“I hope there is a possibility of zombies coming into the budget and moving some of the regular charter numbers in New York City,” said Assemblyman Brian Cunningham (D-Brooklyn), who is in favor of more charter schools.
However, there has been a continued fightback against the expansion of charter schools. Assembly members Steve Stern and Kimberly Jean-Pierre have reportedly spoken against charter school expansion. “We’ll continue to stand strong against the expansion of charter schools,” Stern reportedly said.