That $30M relief fund to charter schools could get smaller

We reported yesterday that charter schools, which were disappointed by an unexpected freeze in their budgets for next year, are going to be getting some relief, thanks to a plan by Governor David Paterson and State Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith. But that $30 million figure turns out to be the highest possible amount, not the guaranteed amount. Smith yesterday vowed to send “up to” $30 million to charter schools.

Charter school supporters are downplaying the distinction and keeping a thankful tone toward Paterson and Smith. But it means that the schools, which are publicly funded but operate outside of the regular district system, will remain in limbo for at least a few more days as to how much money they can actually expect to get. It’s also not yet clear how the pot will be distributed between charter schools.

Peter Murphy, of the statewide lobbying group for charter schools, which played a role in brokering the deal with Smith and Paterson, said that he’s satisfied with the fund, even if it will be smaller than $30 million. “Were assuming ‘up to’ doesn’t mean half, but it may not mean the full thirty,” he said on the telephone this morning. “Sure we would have liked the whole thing, but school districts aren’t happy with their small increase, either.”