Board of Regents rejects charter schools' stealth proposal

Linda Ocasio

An attempt by four New York City charter schools to subvert the charter cap was thwarted on July 12 by the New York State Board of Regents.

Public Prep Charter School Academies — two in the Bronx and one in Manhattan — and the Brilla College Preparatory Charter School in the Bronx, all K–8 schools, sought to revise their charters and join together to create a high school program at one site. The Regents found the proposal essentially violated the city’s charter cap and sent the applications back to the State University of New York (SUNY).

UFT President Michael Mulgrew said Board of Regents Chancellor Lester Young, state Education Commissioner Betty Rosa and the Board of Regents made the right decision, and he stressed that SUNY should follow their lead and also reject the applications.

“This is a blatant attempt to make an end run around New York City’s charter cap,” Mulgrew said. “These applications should not only be rejected, but they should become part of the record about why we need stricter oversight of the charter sector – because charters are always trying to get more than their fair share.”

Under state law, SUNY reviews and recommends to the Board of Regents charter school authorization or revisions to existing charters; if the Regents do not respond, the charters or revisions are granted 90 days after their initial submission to the Regents. The current charter school proposal was sent to the Regents on May 21. SUNY must now reconsider the recommendation and can choose to resubmit the proposed charter with modifications to the Regents with the approval of the applicants; resubmit the proposal to the Regents with no changes; or abandon the proposal — as the Regents recommended in this case.

Mulgrew has long advocated for keeping the cap because of the lack of oversight and transparency in the charter school sector.

“New York State legislators need to halt these planned expansions that would only solidify charters as a parallel — but unregulated and discriminatory — school system, one that is draining resources from many of New York’s neediest kids,” Mulgrew wrote in the New York Daily News in 2019.

New York State United Teachers, the UFT’s state affiliate, also applauded the Regents’ decision in a statement:

“Until meaningful reforms are enacted to ensure that charter schools are transparent and accountable to taxpayers, the state should not allow for the expansion of charter schools. If the SUNY Board of Trustees Charter Schools Committee is going to try to circumvent the cap on new charter schools in New York City by any means necessary — like in this case by allowing a thinly veiled scheme to ‘revise’ existing charters pass muster — someone must step in and call out what’s happening. We applaud Chancellor Young, Commissioner Rosa and the Regents for standing up for what’s right.”

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