Friday, May 28, 2010

Deal Near to Approve More Charter Schools in N.Y.

May 28, 2010

Deal Near to Approve More Charter Schools in N.Y.

New York Times

New York City officials and the State Assembly reached a tentative deal late Thursday to more than double the number of charter schools, a move that officials hope will give the state a better chance at receiving $700 million in federal grant money.

If approved, the measure would raise the number of charter schools by up to 260 over four years, bringing the total number in the state to 460, according to officials who had been briefed on the legislation but spoke on the condition of anonymity because the language of the bill was still being drafted. In New York City, the number of charter schools would be capped at just more than 200, double the current number.

The deal came after days of negotiations that divided charter school advocates and city officials on one side, and the teachers’ union and the Assembly on the other. Several members of the Assembly, including the speaker, Sheldon Silver, have been critical of charter schools, which are publicly financed but privately run.

The final details of the legislation were being worked out late Thursday, with a vote not expected until early Friday morning. Officials from the city and the State Assembly declined to comment.

The legislation would have to be approved in the State Senate and receive the backing of Gov. David A. Paterson. This month, the Senate passed its own bill to increase the cap on charter schools, but that version included fewer restrictions than detractors of charter schools had pushed for.

With the June 1 deadline for the competitive federal grant money known as Race to the Top looming, state education officials were eager to ensure that both the Senate and the governor would sign on the deal as well.

The measure being considered by the Assembly would prohibit any new charter school from being operated for profit, although it would allow those that already exist to remain open.

The bill would also allow the state comptroller to audit charter schools, a move likely to draw ire from some charter school advocates.

In New York City, where most charter schools share a building with a traditional public school, any major improvements made to a charter school would also have to be made to the public school under the legislation being considered by the Assembly.

The charter schools could be authorized by either the State Board of Regents or the State University of New York. But officials were uncertain whether the schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein, would continue to be able to authorize charter schools in the city, as he has done for the past several years.

In an effort to soothe long-standing disputes between charter schools and the traditional public schools they share space with, the legislation would also require schools to set up building councils to monitor conflict.

But it was unclear how such councils would be different from similar committees already in place at schools in New York City.

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