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Charter Schools, Still Hotly Debated, Could Expand in New York

by Staff

Fourteen is a small number in a system with roughly 1,800 schools, and the change would not transform New York City’s educational landscape.

But charter schools remain a hot-button issue. Charter schools use public taxpayer money, but are run independently from district schools and often aren’t unionized. The expansion of charters at a time when district schools are losing students is certain to draw criticism from some families and advocates, who have protested any increases.

The city’s charter leaders praised the news, which would represent a limited win for the sector. Still, some were disappointed by the negotiations: More than seven times as many new schools could have opened under Ms. Hochul’s first proposal.

Charters were once a topic of perennial debate in Albany. In the early days, some New York City charter networks planned to grow as large as districts like Boston and Atlanta.

But in recent budget cycles, the schools had not been a leading issue.

Overall charter enrollment rose by under 1 percent this school year, state data shows.

The return of charters as a major sticking point in the state budget reflected the influence of competing pressures on Ms. Hochul and lawmakers, including both charter supporters and teachers’ unions that oppose the schools and hold major sway.

The most interest in licenses for new schools is expected to lie in the Bronx and Brooklyn, though several large networks in the borough have struggled with enrollment.

It is unclear whether the city’s established networks would vie for a limited set of licenses: Success Academy, for example, is interested in opening more schools soon, while KIPP is not.

Some charter supporters have cast the proposal as an opportunity for people of color. Claudia Espinosa, who runs a local nonprofit for Latina girls, said she wants to open a small high school in the South Bronx.

“I’ve been thinking about this for years,” Ms. Espinosa said. “Every day we learn more about what these girls need, and not all schools are equipped to address that.”

Her school is one of 11 permitted to open by one of the state’s two authorizers, if licenses become available. Others possibilities include an all-girls K-8 school in Brooklyn focused on gender justice; the first transfer high school in western Queens’ District 30; and a high school in Central Brooklyn with an emphasis on STEM education.

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