A few weeks ago I wrote about how the confirmation of Betsy DeVos would not be quite as bad as some might fear. That is still true, but we need to be careful about not going too far in the opposite extreme and assuming there’s nothing to worry about. The main point of that email was that most of DeVos’s key issues are actually state controlled (and if anything, she’s eager to push more control to the states). The downside of that is we are vulnerable to State Legislators who support the DeVos agenda, such as Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan. And one area where Flanagan and the State Senate are very much in step is with charter schools.
The fact is, we don’t give a lot of thought to charter schools here at SWR. We don’t lose students to them, or have to deal with students coming back from them unprepared, and they don’t have any direct impact on our budget. At least they don’t appear to. But if we fail to see that the threat posed by charter schools is a threat to public schools overall – including us – then we’re missing the big picture. This cartoon definitely captures the idea…
The Governor’s budget allocates more money for charter schools, including providing building aid, and allows charter schools to operate with virtually no accountability or transparency, siphoning much needed funding away from actual public schools.
The Assembly budget incorporates a number of proposals to address these issues, while the Senate bill is basically a gift to charters. Here’s NYSUT’s summary of the Assembly and Senate language on charters.
The Assembly rejects the Executive Budget proposal to increase the charter school tuition formula and further rejects the proposal to provide building aid to the charter industry.
The Assembly puts forth a number of proposals that seek to impose some level of transparency, fairness and accountability upon the charter school industry. Specifically these new initiatives would: authorize the auditing of educational management organizations; take into account the finances of charter schools prior to providing financial assistance for the lease or purchase of space; ensure the uniform enrollment of students with disabilities and those living in temporary housing and hold charters accountable if they do not enroll comparable populations of these students as neighboring schools; streamline suspension and discipline of charter school students; institute consistency in the charter schools approval process; disclose compensation paid to each person serving as a charter executive; disclose individuals, entities or corporations who provide gifts over $1,000; ensure charters conform to and are reporting finances according to accepted accounting principles; require charters to provide to the New York City chancellor or superintendent of the respective district, the names of students who withdraw from the charter school; require charters to provide the New York City chancellor or superintendent with a copy of its wait list to ensure they serve the same populations as neighboring school districts; provide that charters placed on probationary status for any reason must notify the parents and applicants of the school, and the state education department must identify on its website, the charter’s remedial action plan; and provide charter school parents a process by which a complaint can be brought against the charter school and made available on the school’s website.
The Assembly includes language to make the charter industry subject to provisions governing general public works projects and prevailing wage requirements.
The Assembly does not include the Executive Budget’s modified charter school transition aid proposal.
The Assembly provides $1.25 million in support for the conversion of charter schools in New York City ($1 million) and Buffalo ($250,000).
The Senate accepts the Executive Budget proposal to unfreeze the charter school tuition formula, (estimated cost of $120 million), provides statewide building aid (estimated cost of $103 million) to the charter industry and eliminates the statewide cap on charter schools.
The Senate provides new reimbursement payments to charter schools for nurses, security guards, custodians, food service workers and “other necessary support personnel” employed by the charter school in the amount of ten percent of the charter school basic tuition paid, if such staff is not otherwise provided by the school district (estimated cost of $124 million).
The Senate proposal provides the following to the charter industry in New York City: total facility rental costs, including but not limited to, lease payments, maintenance, costs of capital improvements, costs of occupancy, security, insurance and real property taxes or an increase of 30 percent, from 20 percent, of the charter school’s basic tuition for the current school year; and the co-location site or alternative space must be sufficient to accommodate all of the charter’s school grades at a given school level, as defined by the school, to be educated at a single location.
The Senate eliminates the authority of the New York City Department of Education to oversee pre-K contracts with charter schools.
The Senate accepts the Executive Budget’s modified charter school transition aid proposal.
The Senate proposal does not include any transparency or accountability measures for the charter industry.
We cannot let this stand. Please take action today (the budget is due at the end of this week!)