Board of Regents supports charter school cap, votes to reject charter high school in NYC

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The New York State Board of Regents is sending a group of four New York City charter schools back to the drawing board on a plan to open up a high school to serve their graduating middle school students. 

The Boys Preparatory Charter School of New York, the Girls Preparatory Charter School of the Bronx, the Girls Preparatory Charter School of New York and the Brilla College Preparatory Charter School sent a proposal the State University of New York, the largest charter school authorizer in the state, to add a joint high school program to each charter school which would operate at one location starting in the 2022-23 school year. 

After SUNY trustees approved the proposal, the plan was sent to the Board of Regents for consideration. On Monday, the Board of Regents voted to send the proposal back to SUNY claiming the proposal was an attempt to thwart the city’s charter school cap. 

The proposal states that the schools would create a new organization, called Ventoux Partnership Network, to oversee the high school and states on its website that it “will allow more high-quality, high schools to open despite a cap on charters,” according to a letter outlining the Regents decision. 

“This appears to be an admission that these proposed charter actions are an attempt to circumvent the charter cap in NYC,” the Regents decision reads. 

Under New York state law, a total of 460 charter schools can exist in the state with 290 of them set aside for New York City. Although there are a number of charter slots available—as of July, 404 charter schools have been approved to operate in the state—no new charters can be opened in New York City without a change to state law. 

President of the city’s teacher union, the United Federation of Teachers, Michael Mulgrew applauded the Board of Regents’ decision to return the proposed charter high school plan to the Trustees of SUNY. The state’s teachers unions are anti-charter in part because charter schools are non-unionized and also because they argue charter drain on resources from school districts. 

“This is a blatant attempt to make an end-run around New York City’s charter cap,” Mulgrew said in a statement. “ 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.”

In New York City, charter school students tend to perform better academically than their public school counterparts. About 59.5% of the city’s charter school students scored at grade on state Math exams and 57.3% at grade level in English Language Arts in the 2018-19 school year compared to 42.6% of and 46.7%  district school students on those same tests respectively, according to the New York City Charter School Center. 

The state teacher’s union also lauded the Board of Regents Monday vote. 

“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, ” New York State United Teachers said in a statement.

“That’s exactly what the Regents and state Education Department have done today. We applaud Chancellor Young, Commissioner Rosa and the Regents for standing up for what’s right.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the total number of charters allotted for New York City.