Bi-partisan Group Of Legislators Calls Forlift In Charter School Cap

James S. Alesi

January 26, 2006

ALBANY, NY -- A bi-partisan group of state legislators today called for lifting the cap on the number of charter schools by at least another 150 more to allow for more public education alternatives for students across New York State.

Legislators gathered on the same day the State University Board of Trustees (SUNY), one of the two statewide charter authorizers, is expected to approve its last four public charter schools, reaching its half of the 100-charter school limit. The State Board of Regents earlier this month reached its half of the cap when it approved several charter schools recommended by the New York City Schools Chancellor, Joel Klein.

Democratic and Republican members of both the Assembly and Senate announced their support for lifting the cap in state law by pointing out that charter schools have met the statutory objectives of the New York Charter Schools Act, which was passed by the legislature in December 1998. Those objectives included increasing student learning and achievement, and providing parents additional choices in the public school system. That law also provided for approval of 100 charter schools, not including charter schools that were converted from existing public schools.

"Charter schools have a proven track record of success and provide a sound public school alternative," said Senator James Alesi (R-Rochester). "It’s vital that the legislature remove the cap on the number of charter schools in New York State. The overwhelming bi-partisan support shows that charter schools can and will continue to be a valuable resource in providing our youth with quality education."

"Charter schools have proven to work effectively for the children and working families of New York State," said Senator Marty Golden (R-Brooklyn), who is the chief sponsor of legislation to remove the cap on charter schools. "I applaud Governor Pataki for his leadership on this issue, and I believe that we can do more to help children achieve academic excellence."

According to test data from the State Education Department, a majority of charter schools are outscoring their respective school district averages on the percentage of students meet or exceeding state standards on elementary and middle school state exams in English and mathematics. This upward trend was also acknowledged two years ago by the State Education Department in their five-year report, commissioned by the legislature, on the progress of charter schools.

Under state law, charter schools typically operate under a five-year contractual agreement with their respective authorizers. In addition to improving student scores and growing parental demand, charter schools have injected real accountability in the public school system with what is effectively a performance contract subject to renewal.

"Charter schools have the potential to raise academic standards, expectations and achievement among students which is a worthy goal that transcends political parties, demographics and geography," said Senator Malcolm Smith (D-Queens), who has co-founded two charter schools (Merrick Academy Charter School and Peninsula Preparatory Academy Charter School), both located in Queens.

Governor Pataki’s Executive Budget proposal, released last week, called for an increase in the charter school cap from 100 to 250, and for exempting from this limit any charter schools approved by the New York City Schools Chancellor.