Six proposed New York City charter schools cleared a hurdle toward approval Monday after receiving a preliminary thumb’s up from the state’s top education policymaking board.
The schools are expected to receive a final approval from the full Board of Regents Tuesday, continuing a trend of approving most charter schools that come before the board in recent years.
Two of the approved charter schools would be based in the Bronx, two on Staten Island, and one a piece in Brooklyn and Queens. When fully phased in, the schools would have room for nearly 2,700 students.
The Brooklyn elementary school will incorporate martial arts into the school day and mimic some elements of KIPP charter schools, one of the largest networks in the city. The Queens charter school, New Dawn Charter High School II, will replicate an existing “transfer” school in Brooklyn that serves students who have struggled at traditional high schools and are older or behind in credits.
The two schools approved for Staten Island, where one in four students has a disability, will have a special focus on students with autism or those who struggle to read. At Richmond Preparatory Charter School, for instance, students will have access to college mentors who are on the autism spectrum while rising seniors will spend the summer at a local college, partly so students with autism can slowly transition to college life.
“It’s very needed,” Regent Christine Cea said of the Staten Island charter schools. “We have the highest population of students on the autism spectrum.”
Monday’s decision to approve six charter schools represented the board’s largest set of approvals in a single round since 2013. (The charter schools, which will join roughly 230 others in the city, must still go through a checklist before they can officially open, including a visit from state officials.)
But the Regents have sent mixed messages about the sector. The last time they reviewed charter applications, in November, the board rejected two applications for upstate charters — the first time the Regents voted down proposals that had been cleared by the state’s education department.
Some of that tension was on display at Monday’s meeting. Regent Luis Reyes raised questions about whether some schools were prepared to serve English learners and criticized the Brooklyn charter school that plans to use martial arts. “It strikes me in many ways as a militaristic-like setting,” he said. “That’s the vibe I get.”
But Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa, who has been critical of allowing charter schools to certify their own teachers, defended the charter proposals against some of the board’s skeptics — arguing that quality schools deserve support regardless of whether they’re run by the district.
“I think it’s kind of an unfair conversation in the sense that there are individuals in many communities that subscribe, submit, create charter schools,” Rosa said, in response to a question about what this school offers that traditional district schools don’t. “Our responsibility is to take a look at what is being offered.”