National News

nytimes.com
September 30, 2009

Mayor Again Calls for Lifting Cap on Charter Schools

By JENNIFER MEDINA

Think the success of the city charter schools is “indisputable”? So says Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who renewed his call for lifting the state cap on charter schools, continuing to center his re-election bid on education.

At a celebration for the 10th anniversary of Sisulu-Walker Charter School of Harlem, the first charter school in the city, Mr. Bloomberg said he would create 100 new charter schools, doubling the current number of the publicly funded but privately operated schools in the city. The mayor said the additional schools would mean that charter school students could number 100,000 — 10 percent of all public school students in the city by 2013.

But lifting the charter school cap, like most of the proposals he announced in Harlem on Wednesday, would require the approval of the State Legislature, which is anything but assured. The mayor unsuccessfully lobbied for lifting the cap in 2005, and the cap was instead simply raised to 200 schools. While the city is nearly certain to reach the limit of the number of charter schools it can approve this year, the State University of New York can still approve more than a dozen new charter schools.

Mr. Bloomberg also called for the state to give the city’s schools chancellor the authority to approve new charter schools. Under the current system, Chancellor Joel I. Klein can give preliminary approval to new schools, but those schools must then be approved by the state’s Board of Regents.

And to make it easier for charter school operators to run more than one school, Mr. Bloomberg said he would advocate allowing charter schools to operate on more than one campus. Legislation calling for similar changes was voted down in Albany earlier this year.

And in a move that could double the number of loud fights over space for charter schools, Mr. Bloomberg said that he would create a task force to find more space for the schools and would seek to raise millions of dollars from private contributors to help pay for the schools, with an additional $200 million from the city. Mr. Bloomberg also called for using New York City Housing Authority sites to house new charter schools, as they are doing for Coney Island, which opened in September.

But perhaps the most intriguing bit of the mayor’s lengthy list of proposals was a demand that the state change its law to allow students who attend a charter elementary school to receive preference in the lottery to be admitted to the middle and high schools operated by the charter school. Several charter schools around the city have quietly complained that when their students leave the school, they end up falling behind.

Mr. Bloomberg’s proposals come a week after the Stanford economist Caroline M. Hoxby released a study concluding that charter schools in the city had made significant gains for students. Ms. Hoxby has released several studies supporting the effectiveness of charter schools, and her most recent example is now being examined by critics and skeptics.

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