Charters, proponents urge lawmakers to reopen closed schools

Charter schools and their supporters are asking lawmakers to increase their seats by reissuing closed-school charters — or “zombie” charters.

“It is irresponsible, particularly over the past two years, that we don’t do everything we can to ensure our children and our families have the best possible educational choice,” said StudentsFirstNY’s Crystal McQueen Taylor. “There is actually something we can do about it now.”

School leaders, families and advocates rallied in City Hall Park on Wednesday and demanded that the step to improve access be included in the state budget. New York City is different maxed out on charters ready to issue.

James Merriman, chief executive officer of the New York City Charter School Center, called the approach “so humble and sensible that it’s almost embarrassing that we have to be up here asking lawmakers to do it.”

The contentious debate over lifting the charter school cap in New York City has pitted supporters of school choice against opponents of diverting public funds to private operators.

The center claims that reissuing closed charters is a simple solution that maintains the cap while new schools can replace those that have closed but still count towards the legal limit. It also incentivizes low-performing charter flights that are about to be replaced by new and improved alternatives.

James Merriman, CEO of the New York City Charter School Center, at a rally for charter schools at City Hall
New York City Charter School Center CEO James Merriman spoke at the rally and called for an increase in charter spots.
William Farington

“That’s part of the point of charter schools — if they don’t perform, they close,” Merriman said.

“What we’re really asking for is just a different way of counting startups as the number of schools running,” he said.

Charter school leaders have insisted the demand for more seats is there. Although the enrollment has jumped 9 percent in city charter schools According to the New York City Charter School Center, five charter schools opened over two years this school year.

The center added that Mayor Eric Adams previously threw his support behind the idea, testifying at a legislative hearing in Albany about bringing “zombie” charters back into use.

Critics of the plan to reissue these charters, which has precedent in the statehave said it is bypassing the cap and understaffing students in Department of Education-run schools by sharing the wealth — and space. Nearly half of the city’s 271 charter schools are located at least partially in buildings owned or leased by the department, the center’s data showed.

Eric Adams
Mayor Eric Adams has reportedly supported the idea of ​​”zombie” charters in the past.
Dennis A Clark

But at the rally, speakers with aspirations to start new charter schools painted a picture of what they could achieve if they were allowed to open their doors.

Three years ago, Daniel Diaz applied for admission to Haven Charter High School in the Bronx, where he said a student would graduate with a diploma, certification and a potential job opportunity with his partner New York Presbyterian.

“We were approved — with a promissory note,” said Diaz, who is also executive director of East Side House Settlement. “And that promissory note set people back a few years because then we couldn’t open our doors.” Charters, proponents urge lawmakers to reopen closed schools


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