Charter school advocates push lawmakers to expand seats in city

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Charter school advocates rallied in City Hall Park Wednesday to push state lawmakers on action that would increase the number of charter school seats in the Big Apple.

A debate to lift a statewide cap on charter school licenses has stalled, leaving New York City maxed out on its number of charters – even though a slew of the licenses are for schools that are now closed.

Charter school leaders and supporters are asking the state Legislature to include in its budget a change that would allow dormant charters to be reassigned to new charters.

“It is unconscionable in these past two years in particular that we would not do everything possible to make sure that our kids and our families have the best possible education choices,” said Crystal McQueen Taylor from StudentsFirstNY.

“There’s actually something that we can do about this right now.”

James Merriman, chief executive officer of the New York City Charter School Center, called the approach “so modest and commonsensical that it’s almost embarrassing that we have to be up here asking lawmakers to do it.” 

The contentious debate over lifting the charter school cap in New York City has pitted advocates for school choice against opponents to redirecting public funds to private operators.

Charter proponents say reissuing closed charters is a simple solution that keeps the cap in place. It also incentivizes low-performing charters that close to be replaced by new and improved alternatives.

“That’s the point of charter schools in part — if they don’t perform, they close,” Merriman said.

“What we’re really asking for is just a different way to count charters as the number of schools operated.”

Charter school leaders have been adamant that the demand for more seats is there. Though enrollment has jumped in city charter schools by 9 percent over two years, five charter schools opened this school year, according to the New York City Charter School Center.

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