State accord clears way for SE Queens charter

By Rich Bockmann

The new state budget effectively reverses Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to deny space to a previously approved charter school in South Jamaica, and the City Council Education Committee is planning to hold a hearing on the effect Albany’s decision will have on traditional public schools going forward.

The education component of the budget agreement rewrites the state’s law so the city will have to get approval from a charter school in order to make a change to a co-location approved prior to 2014.

Earlier this year, Mayor Bill de Blasio reversed course on a decision made by the Bloomberg administration to allow a Success Academy charter school to open next year inside the August Martin High School building in South Jamaica.

The protection is one of several moves made by Albany to strengthen and protect charter schools, and Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), the Education Committee chairman and a vocal critic of charter schools, said he has scheduled an oversight hearing on charter schools for next week.

“We’re going to look at the whole business of charter schools and hold them accountable for what they do,” he said.

Dromm said it was unfortunate that the agreement “really in many ways supports charters over public school students,” noting an increase in per-pupil funding at charter schools while the city is still owed more than $4 billion from Albany stemming from a 2007 equal-funding agreement.

On the flip side of the charter debate, Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised the “significant protections” the budget adds to the charter school movement across the state.

“We address the issue of co-locations and the alternatives to co-location,” he said during a conference call with reporters. “So we make sure charter schools do have alternatives, which will provide reasonable space accommodations and funding to provide that space.”

The law also requires the city to provide facilities access to new or expanding charter schools that request a co-location inside a public school building or otherwise pay the charter’s rent and an additional 20 percent increase in funding per student.

The budget will give an additional $500 in per-pupil funding to city charters over the next three years. Charters currently receive about 30 percent less in funding than do traditional public schools.

The city comptroller’s office will also be authorized to conduct financial audits of charters.

Comptroller Scott Stringer earlier this year said he would audit charters, though at the time his office’s ability to conduct such reviews was legally questionable.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4574.

More from Around New York