11 charter schools get permission to open in New York, bringing the city closer to the legal limit

Nearly a dozen new charter schools have gotten the green light to open in New York in the next three years, bringing the city closer to a looming limit on charters that has advocates fretting.

The SUNY Charter Schools Institute, one of two entities able to approve new charter schools for the state, signed off on 11 applications during a meeting in Albany Thursday. All of the schools aim to open in the Bronx or Brooklyn, and while several would be part of existing school networks, others would be the first for their operators.

The schools include a replica of Brooklyn Prospect Charter School, the racially and economically diverse school that also won approval this week to expand to Connecticut; a Montessori school that’s part of a nonprofit working to bring that model to low-income neighborhoods; and a basketball-themed school where students will not only play the sport but study it as well.

The approvals come as a longstanding debate has reignited over how many of the publicly funded but privately managed schools should be allowed to operate. Nodding to concerns that rapid growth could hurt local districts and schools, lawmakers have always capped the number of charter schools permitted in the city and the state, and today’s approvals leave just 17 slots that could go toward city schools.

Charter advocates say the cap will deter talented educators from seeking to work with New York City children. As the number of available charters dwindles, they’ve been calling more attention to the issue, including last week after state test scores showed that city charter school students are outperforming their peers on the exams.

They pressed their case again today. “SUNY’s approvals are good news for New York City families who will directly benefit from 11 new high-quality schools,” New York City Charter School Center CEO James Merriman said in a statement. “With more approvals on the horizon it is more important than ever that the legislature lift the unnecessary cap on charter schools in New York City.”

Whether the issue has any chance of taking hold in Albany is unclear. Charter advocates lost crucial allies in the legislature last month when progressive Democrats unseated several lawmakers who had sided with Republicans on some issues, including charter schools. Many charter school critics say they are now hopeful that rather than loosening or even maintaining controls on the schools, lawmakers will tighten the reins. And after initially signaling an openness to charter schools, city Chancellor Richard Carranza recently joined Mayor Bill de Blasio in expressing firm opposition to lifting the cap.

As the cap quickly becomes a political flashpoint, charter operators continue to propose new schools. Counting applications currently under consideration by SUNY and the State Education Department, the state’s other charter authorizer, the cap could be exhausted as soon as the end of 2018, according to the charter center.

Meanwhile the federal education department this week revealed that it is giving up to $78 million to New York to support the hundreds of charter schools that are already in operation across the state.

Here are the newly authorized schools and where and when they aim to open:

  • Brilla Caritas Charter School and Brilla Pax Charter School in District 7 in the Bronx (2020)
  • Brooklyn Prospect Charter School in District 15 in Brooklyn (2019)
  • Capital Preparatory Bronx Charter School in District 12 in the Bronx (2019)
  • Central Brooklyn Ascend Charter Schools 4 & 5 in Brooklyn (2019)
  • DREAM Charter Schools Hunts Point (2019) & Mott Haven (2021) in the Bronx
  • Lewis Katz New Renaissance Basketball Academy Charter School in District 7 in the Bronx (2020)
  • University Prep Charter Middle School in District 7 in the Bronx (2019)
  • Wildflower New York Charter School in District 9 in the Bronx (2019)