In December, 1998, a month after the general election Governor Pataki called the legislature back into session. The New York State legislature meets from January until mid June. Sessions after an election are called “lame duck” sessions; the legislators who lost their election or chose not to run are in office until the end of the year and can vote until the last day of the year. Two issues were on the agenda: a long delayed raise and a charter school law. Surprise, surprise, the charter school bill became law.
The charter school authorizers were the Board of Regents and the New York City and Buffalo School Districts, See the NYC Charter authorization regulations here and the Board of Regents regulations here.
While the regulations are extremely detailed charter schools rarely comply with the text of the law,
The purpose of this article is to authorize a system of charter schools to provide opportunities for teachers, parents, and community members to establish and maintain schools that operate independently of existing schools and school districts in order to accomplish the following objectives:
(a) Improve student learning and achievement;
(b) Increase learning opportunities for all students, with special emphasis on expanded learning experiences for students who are at-risk of academic failure;
(c) Encourage the use of different and innovative teaching methods;
(d) Create new professional opportunities for teachers, school administrators and other school personnel;
(e) Provide parents and students with expanded choices in the types of educational opportunities that are available within the public school system; and
(f) Provide schools with a method to change from rule-based to performance-based accountability systems by holding the schools established under this article accountable for meeting measurable student achievement results.
Do charter schools target “students who are at-risk of academic failure,”?
Do charter schools use “different and innovative teaching methods”?
What does “change from rule-based to performance-based accountability systems” mean?
Are charter schools held accountable “for meeting measurable student achievement”?
Charter schools commonly have fewer English language learners, fewer students with disabilities and many fewer students in self-contained special education classes, the instruction is mundane and assessment is the same as all schools: test scores. Examples of “different and innovative teaching methods” are found in public schools, examples, the Consortium Schools, the Internationals Network and many of the smaller high schools, not in charter schools; in fact, “drill and kill” is commonplace in charter schools.
As of February 2, 2022, a total of 408 charter schools operate or have been approved to operate in New York State. Below is a directory of the 358 charter schools that are currently operating or have been approved but are not yet in operation (219 SUNY-authorized, 99 Board of Regents-authorized, 38 NYCDoE-authorized, and 2 Buffalo BoE-authorized).
Why should the Board of Trustees of SUNY, the state university, be able to authorize K-12 schools when all 4400 K-12 schools in the state are under the regulation of the Board of Regents?
Governor Cuomo used his powers to reward his friends and punish his perceived enemies, a student of the 16th century political scientist Niccolo Machiavelli.
The only authorizer of charter schools in the original law was the Board of Regents, until the governor added the bold face phrase below.
During the development of a request for proposals pursuant to this subdivision the board of regents and the board of trustees of the state university of New York shall each afford the public an opportunity to submit comments and shall review and consider the comments raised by all interested parties.
Why would the governor want to divide the authorizing authority by adding SUNY?
Leverage: the ability to use charter schools to challenge teacher unions as well as campaign contributions from charter school supporters.
In the summer of 2014 Cuomo was being challenged in the September democratic primary by Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham Law School professor. The state teacher union was not making an endorsement and a number of local teacher unions endorsed Teachout. Cuomo easily won the primary, (65-35%), won the November election, and in the subsequent budget increased the teacher probationary period from three to four years and few pro charter tweaks in the law.
The message was clear: mess with me and there are consequences.
I don’t believe Cuomo was pro charter school; charter schools were a tool to punish a perceived enemy, teacher unions.
The governor appoints 15 of the 18 members of the SUNY Board of Trustees, the members, with a few exceptions are attorneys or businessman, not educators (See Board members here). The Charter School Institute is a committee of the Board chaired by Joe Belluck, an attorney. The meetings of the Charter School Institute are love fests; clearly the SUNY board are more charter advocates than charter supervisors. Belluck was about to be appointed to serve on the NYC Mayoral Control School Board (PEP), until he withdrew his nomination at the last moment. Someone whispered in Mayor Adams ear: beginning a war with public school parents and teachers is not a wise idea.
One day in August, Governor Cuomo resigns and Kathy Hochul, the virtually unknown Lieutenant Governor is the governor of the state of New York, and, begins cleaning house. Cuomo staffers leave or are pushed out. An exception is Jim Malatras, a close Cuomo friend for years, an advisor to Cuomo, appointed as head of the Rockefeller Institute (a state authorized think tank), appointed president of a SUNY college and, without any search, Chancellor of SUNY, who also played a role in trying to discredit Cuomo accusers, and, Malatras had no intention of leaving his new post. He was appointed by the SUNY board, Cuomo appointees, who showed no interest in replacing Malatras, until the heat increased and Malatras left, with a lucrative “golden parachute.”
It was not surprising when bills were introduced in the state legislature to remove SUNY from any role in charter schools.
Section 11 provides that all charters authorized by the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York shall remain in effect unless there is cause for revocation pursuant to Section 2855 of the Education Law. Additionally, all applications for charter renewals after the effective date of this act shall be approved by the Board of Regents.
Section 12 provides that all obligations to oversee and supervise charters authorized by the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York prior to the effective date of this act shall be transferred to the Board of Regents on the effective date of this act.
Under the three terms of Cuomo’s administration charter schools knew, or thought they knew, that the governor was in their corner. While many bills were introduced to increase charter school accountability few become law, until now.
Governor Hochul was just endorsed by the state teacher union, she has a substantial lead in the June democratic primary polls,
If the legislature passes the bill quoted supra I believe Hochul will sign, sending her message, mess with me and there are consequences, Cuomo was the bully, Hochul wields her powers with a velvet glove.
New York is a heavily democratic state; the reaction to the progressive legislation (i.e., bail reform) may make the November election more competitive. Hochul and democratic lawmakers need the teacher union and public school parents.
Kathy Hochul moved from a totally anonymous lieutenant governor from Buffalo to a skilled politician deep in the morass of the Albany swamp.