cap dance

Senate Republicans push proposal that could add city charters without raising cap

PHOTO: J. Zubrzycki

Senate Republicans are now pushing a proposal that would increase the number of charter schools allowed to open in New York City without raising the state’s overall cap on charter schools.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan reintroduced a mayoral control bill late Sunday night that would keep the state’s cap at its current 460 schools, but eliminate the geographic restrictions on the more than 130 still-available charters, meaning they could open in New York City. The plan offers a middle path for lawmakers reluctant to raise the overall cap, though the Assembly will likely be reluctant to back the proposal.

The bill amends an earlier proposal from the Senate, and adds new language requiring the city to provide “data, estimates and statistics regarding all matters relating to the city district.” The previous bill would also have raised the statewide charter-school cap by 100 schools.

Still, Assembly Democrats — who have to sign off on any final deal — and their allies Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city teachers union will find little to like in the Senate’s amended proposal, which would extend mayoral control of city schools by just one year and require the city to provide more education data to the state. De Blasio and the Assembly are seeking a three-year extension without such strings attached, and the mayor has said the cap does not need to be raised.

“Certainly this is not the year to raise a cap on the schools when we continue to have questions as to how they’re administered,” said Catherine Nolan, who chairs the Assembly’s education committee.

The bill’s reemergence shows that charter schools continue to be a top education priority for Senate Republicans, even if few represent districts with charter schools. The Senate was a major supporter of last year’s push to secure facilities funding for charters in New York City, and the pro-charter group StudentsFirstNY spent $4.2 million to help Republicans hold onto power during last year’s election.

The proposal reflects the fact that the charter sector has grown much faster in New York City than it has statewide. New York City is home to 197 of the state’s 248 charter schools, and is the home base for a few rapidly expanding charter-school networks, including Success Academy, whose founder Eva Moskowitz has nearly 50 schools open or approved to open and has said she wants to open another 50 in 10 years. Growth outside of the city hasn’t been as rapid — since 2010, just 13 of 103 new charters have gone to districts outside of the city.

The Senate bill would also require that the charters for schools that have been closed “be returned to the statewide pool,” which would effectively raise the state’s cap by more than 20 charters. The bill also puts no restrictions on how many charters each of the state’s two authorizers, SUNY and the Board of Regents, can give out.

That could offer more freedom to groups applying to open a charter school in New York City, since all but one of the up to 25 New York City charters still left under the current cap are assigned to the Board of Regents. Northeast Charter Schools Network Kyle Rosenkrans said charter leaders are concerned about last month’s rejection of 15 charter school applications by the State Education Department, which the Regents supervises, along with recent changes to the makeup of the Board of Regents.

“I think there are concerns about the long-term commitment from the current Board of Regents to charter schools as a strategy for improving education,” Rosenkrans said, explaining why charter applicants might be more eager to apply for a charter from SUNY.

Correction: A previous version incorrectly characterized one of the changes to the mayoral control portion of the bill’s updated version. 

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”