The city’s Department of Education has nearly hit the ceiling on the number of charter schools it is allowed to authorize and will not approve any more until the state cap is lifted.
On Monday, the DOE sent a list of 15 approved charter schools to the State Education Department for final authorization, leaving it and other school boards with only three new charters available.
State law limits the number of charter schools to 200 and there are currently 164 charters operating around the state. Of the 36 remaining new charters available, half may be authorized by the State University of New York. The other half may be authorized by the New York City Schools Chancellor or other local school boards and then approved by the state Board of Regents.
“From our perspective, we’ve approved 15 applications and submitted them to the state and if the cap is not lifted, we will not be submitting any more,” Ann Forte, a spokeswoman for the DOE, said.
This leaves three charters remaining for other local school boards or the State Education Department to approve and 18 charters left to be authorized by SUNY. In a report released earlier this week, the New York City Charter School Center estimated that about 40 charter school operators would compete for those remaining spots.
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The question of whether to raise the cap on charter schools, or to remove it entirely, has been hotly debated in recent months. States with charter caps are at a disadvantage in the competition for the $4.3 billion Race to the Top grant funds, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said. Charter school advocates argue that the cap encourages school operators to open schools elsewhere.
State education commissioner David Steiner and Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch have argued that the cap prevents charter school authorizers from acting recklessly. Steiner and Tisch have said that a state-wide cap allows charters to expand at a measured pace and ensures that only the best schools will be opened.