Earlier this week, the Board of Regents took an unprecedented action against charter school growth by denying not one but two charter school applications. The two proposals, one located in rural Truxton and the other in Mount Vernon, were both high-quality and had been fully vetted by the professional staff at the New York State Education Department and recommended for approval. What’s more, they were set to open in areas of our state where families are desperate for educational choice.
So why would the Board deny these applications? We have some theories, plus some suggestions on a path forward.
Read The Signs
The Board of Regents, which has a history of being extremely volatile in its approach to chartering, might as well hang a sign on its door saying: Thinking of opening up a charter school anywhere except the Big 5? Don’t bother.
Both the Truxton and Mount Vernon proposals were ultimately killed by the local Regent. In the case of Regent Johnson from the Hudson Valley, it was pre-determined she would not be supportive. Remember when Amani Public Charter School had to sue the local district because it was breaking the law by refusing to pass through charter funding? Then-Superintendent Johnson presided over those anti-charter district actions. In the case of Regent Mittler, she did some more hand-wringing over the decision at the table, but ultimately decided to align with the status quo which had advanced some very questionable "facts" to make their case.
Professional opinions matter. Or, do they?
These were two great proposals, and they wouldn’t have received the support of SED staff if they weren’t. But sadly, the Board’s actions signal that staff recommendations don’t always matter at the end of the day.
This is a highly political Board and their politics do not naturally align with the policy and practices of good charter authorizing.
Why This Matters for ALL Charters
While particularly painful for the families of Truxton and Mount Vernon, barring charter school growth into new areas is a major problem for ALL charter schools, regardless of authorizer. The charter movement struggles in Albany to engage greater numbers of law and policy makers and cultivate support. Meanwhile, charter teams in areas like Buffalo struggle with this same Board, despite a clear and demonstrated need for seats in good, strong schools. We’re in this movement together, and what hurts one of us hurts all of us.
So, what now?
The good news in all of this is that five other charter school were approved this week. And the Truxton and Mount Vernon teams do have another way: that is, they could, and should, consider engaging SUNY. Instead of trying to overcome a Board whose politics don’t lend themselves to good chartering policy and practice, we at least know SUNY will give these schools the fair shot that they deserve.
To read more, click here. Plus, click here to check out a statement we released to the media today.