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Charter school growth not likely in 2019 

With changing political dynamics in the Democrat-led New York State Legislature and opposition from the teachers union, the cap on charter schools in New York is unlikely to be raised this year.

A 2015 law restricts how many new charter schools could open in New York City to 50, and the city reached that cap earlier this year. The limit under that law for the entire state is 460 schools. Proponents of charter schools would like to see the cap lifted, saying there are already long waiting lists of lower-income children who want to attend the schools.

Governor Andrew Cuomo supports raising the cap. But Jolene DiBrango, vice president of the New York State United Teachers union, said talking about charter school expansion is not the "right conversation" to be having right now, with most public schools facing budget votes soon.

"Taxpayers will be going to the polls and voting on school budgets," DiBrango said. "And they know exactly where their tax dollars are being spent on public schools."

DiBrango said charter schools are less transparent and lack accountability. "And we think the conversation should be on that," she said.

Charter schools are nonunion and operate under different rules than public schools, often with longer school days and fewer vacations.

Statewide, 385 charter schools are either operating or have permits to operate, according to the State Education Department. Although New York City is at its limit, the rest of the state is allowed up to 99 new charter schools under the current law.

In the past, Cuomo had political allies in the state Legislature who supported charter school expansion; Republicans and independent Democrats in the state Senate were backers. But Republicans lost heavily in the 2018 elections and are in the minority in the Senate. Seven of the nine members of the Independent Democratic Conference lost their seats in primaries.

Senate Democrats don't favor expanding charter schools. And Democratic Assembly Leader Carl Heastie said the proposal is "not even on the radar screen" in his house.

"The Assembly Democrats have always wanted to expend their energy and time on traditional public schools," he said.

Meaning that for now, the cap on charter schools stands.


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