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OpinionEditorial

Lifting the state cap on charter schools

The state's top school leaders are pushing ahead

The state's top school leaders are pushing ahead with a landmark change in high school graduation requirements for Regents history exams, amid protests by social studies teachers and their allies that it weakens academic scholarship and students' grounding in world and national events. Photo Credit: iStock

New data show that New York City had 163,000 students on charter school waitlists last year -- more than any other city in the country.

In an overburdened school system, NYC families should have an array of education options. They should be able to choose from zoned public schools, gifted and talented and special education programs, and specialized schools.

But those choices are no longer enough or easily available. Traditional public schools are overburdened, in terms of resources and space, and they're stretched thin to accommodate the needs of 1.1 million children.

Figures from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools clearly underscore city families' needs and desires for alternatives. Charter schools must be a more accessible choice in the mix. But many city families find them unattainable. Under the current state cap, there's only room for 25 new charters. The city has 197 charter schools.

It's time to give families the choice they are clamoring for by responsibly lifting the cap on the number of charter schools allowed in New York City.

The move has to come with the continued consideration of the needs of traditional public schools and their students. It has to come with greater transparency and with measures to determine the new schools' success. Existing charter schools also must fill the vacant seats they have to provide more opportunities to city families.

A lifted cap could complement the city's efforts to improve its traditional public schools. The new waitlist data came as Mayor Bill de Blasio seeks to increase funding to 130 failing and struggling traditional public schools.

Still, city public high schools are facing a meager 68 percent graduation rate, and more than half of students in the third to eighth grades were not proficient in reading and math last year. Clearly, more has to be done.

Our children have been caught in a political battle of wills. Enough is enough. It's time to stop robbing them of educational choices while politics takes center stage and waitlists grow.

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