Mayoral control extended; SUNY makes charter deal

by Julie M. Marlette

On Board Online • July 24, 2017

By Julie M. Marlette
Director of Governmental Relations

The last week of June in the state Capitol was filled with an eerie sense of deja vu. The legislative session officially had ended, yet all the players were back in the building, having the same conversations as the week before.

The reason? Gov. Andrew Cuomo had summoned the Legislature to re-convene for a mandatory "extraordinary session."

The governor wanted lawmakers to renew mayoral control of schools in New York City; ultimately they agreed to allow the mayor to remain in charge of public schools for not one, but two years. And the law came with no statutory strings attached. This was significant, as past extensions for the current administration have included significant concessions on charter school policy.

However, charter schools scored a victory in another quarter. At almost the same time mayoral control was settled, SUNY officials announced that they were proposing regulations that would allow certain charter schools to certify their own teachers. They believe they can do that because, as a part of last year's negotiations over mayoral control, the SUNY Board of Trustees was given the authority to issue regulations over the charter schools. This only would affect charter school authorized by SUNY's Charter Schools Institute.

Current law allows charter schools to employ a limited number of uncertified teachers. The SUNY regulations, if enacted, would allow for a de facto expansion of those limits by allowing some charter schools to certify their own teachers. While these programs would be subject to the oversight of the Charter Schools Institute, it would be a different standard than traditionally certified teachers have met.

Meanwhile, New York City has agreed to a number of items important to the charter school industry, including providing Metro cards to some charter school students, according to news reports.

A more controversial item would involve a promise by the city that it will not object if a charter authorizer such as SUNY decides to reissue a charter to a closed charter school. The agreement seems to signal that efforts will be made to make 460 charter schools operational in the state.

In the 2016-17 school year, 335 charter schools had been approved by a chartering entity - either SUNY, the state Board of Regents or a local school district. Of them, 34 had closed or never opened. An undetermined number are already in the pipeline for approval this fall.

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