Will Governor Cuomo Succeed in Increasing/Eliminating the New York City Charter School Cap?

The New York Post, a pro-charter school daily newspaper reports that Governor Cuomo is pursuing increasing the New York City charter school cap.

Gov. Cuomo on Sunday urged the Legislature to back a new law that would raise the cap to allow more charter schools to open in New York City before the legislative session ends in June.

“We support raising this artificial cap, but the legislature needs to agree as well,” Cuomo senior adviser Rich Azzopardi told The Post.

And, Ray Domanico from the conservative Manhattan Institute follows up with a NY Post op ed, arguing that charter schools raise all boats,

[Charter school] success at creating educational opportunity hasn’t come at the expense of the city’s traditional public schools. Over the last 20 years, as charter schools have grown in the city to the point where they now educate 10 percent of all public-school students, the city’s traditional public schools have seen historical improvement.

Meryl Tisch, the deputy chancellor of SUNY (and former chancellor of the Board of Regents) jumped on the train, also calling for the raising of the New York City cap.

State law sets a statewide cap on the number of charter school and a subcap on the number allotted to New York City. The SUNY Charter Institute approved a number of charter schools at their last meeting reaching the New York City cap.

The cap has been increased twice, each time the increase was included in the state budget. The budget process in New York State is unique; the governor can add non-budgetary items to the budget.  Two convoluted court decisions sustained the right of the governor to add items not germane to the budget, the only power the legislature has is not to approve the budget, not a viable option. .

In the past the governor used the budget to increase the cap; this time he made no efforts to use the budget.

The legislature will return on April 29th and will adjourn in mid-June, with many outstanding issues; there are twenty-five legislative days remaining in the session. While both houses in the legislature are controlled by Democrats the newly empowered Democratic majority in the Senate is aggressive, and, outspokenly hostile to charters; John Liu, the chair of the New York City Education Committee has been especially negative towards charters

On the Assembly side the new chair of the Education Committee, Michael Benedetto, is a retired New York City teacher.

Marcos Crespo, a Bronx Assembly member, as well as the chair of the Bronx Democratic Party is one of the few Democratic charter school supporters in the Assembly.

Can the pro-charter school folks stir the pot and generate political pressure to increase the cap?

There is a bill, introduced 3/29/19 that, “Requires the state comptroller and the comptroller of the city of New York to coordinate the scheduling and performance of audits of charter schools in the city of New York.”  A bill vigorously opposed by the network charters. Philanthropy is the “dirty little secret,” the charter school networks (Success Academy, etc.,) receive large sums of philanthropic dollars, from hedge funds and national ant-union organizations. For example, Guide Star, the site that give access to the IRS 990 reports lists over 200 million dollars in contributions to the Success Academy Network,  the dollars are not subject to audit.

There aren’t any bills so far to increase the cap.

In 1866 Gideon Tucker, a New York judge, wrote in a decision of a will case: “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session,” and little has changed.

Why didn’t the governor add an increase in the cap to the budget bill?

  • The maneuvering for charter school PAC dollars

The charter school political action committees (PACs) have poured dollars into the campaign of Republicans in the Senate – they lost. Where should the PAC dollars go?  The governor’s actions says, “I’m one of your few friends.”

  • De Blasio v Cuomo

The de Blasio-Cuomo antipathy is unabated. From the governor’s seat in Albany he is the alpha progressive. At every opportunity he has made life difficult for de Blasio: from budget to space for charter schools to mayoral extensions, nothing has come easily

As perhaps Cuomo is seeking powerful allies in the Assembly

  • Marcus Crespo

With the Bronx Borough President term-limited Crespo may be looking at the Bronx Borough President as his next step, and, charter school dollars are as good as anyone else’s dollars.

I believe it is unlikely that Cuomo wants to alienate the UFT, the New York City teacher union. Cuomo and Mulgrew have had a “professional” relationship. After the Supreme Court issued the Janus Decision; the governor quickly issued regulations strengthening union membership rules basically thwarting the impact of Janus. The bill signing took place at UFT headquarters.

Rent regulations expire in New York City on June 15th and the Democrats in both houses are seeking sweeping changes, the Assembly, the Senate and the Governor have to agree, and,  if there is no agreement rent control sunsets, totally unacceptable.

The last days in Albany are called “the big ugly;” deals are made, I’ll support this if you support that, no one has a political future if they allow rent control to expire while the real estate industry pours dollars and lobbyists and promises of anonymous independent expenditures. Could the charter school cap get caught up in the last minute deal-making?

The Democratic primary debates begin on June 26th and 27th. As candidates fade the next tier of candidates will emerge, are de Blasio, Cuomo and/or Bloomberg possible late entrants?

Presidential politics, deal-making during the “big ugly,” charter school PAC dollars, all impacting the race at the end of the legislative session.

Would charters exchange agree to the “audit” bill in exchange for increasing the cap?  Probably not.

You might say that I’m cynical, why can’t decisions simply be made on their merits?

Somewhere around 15,000 bills will be submitted during the legislative session, and, a few hundred will become law. Legislators concentrate on bills they introduced, aside from the budget, education bills are well down the list.

The 1787 Constitutional Convention that produced our Constitution was a series of compromises, aka, “deal-making.”

I see no enthusiasm in the legislature; unless the governor decides to lean on the legislature; then again, it’s Albany.

3 responses to “Will Governor Cuomo Succeed in Increasing/Eliminating the New York City Charter School Cap?

  1. Remember what happened to Ceaser after he took away the Senate’s power?

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  2. I am applaud how NYC Public Schools are being ignored and defunded. The wealthiest City will not “at least give the Public Schools the $4 Billlions owed to NYC Schools”! I Advocate for Public Schools Funding increases, my Solution is to have Corporations to Fund Public Schools.

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  3. Herman Kolender

    Don’t forget that when the UFT and Charter Schools held rallies on the same day in Albany a few years ago, Cuomo attended (spoke at) the Charter School rally and ignored the UFT rally. He gets millions in contributions from pro-Charter school hedge fund managers. So, what do you think the answer to the question is?

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