The New York State Education Department has rejected all 15 applications they have received for new charter schools in the state, arguing that none of the applicants met academic standards.
“We always look for quality and these applications didn’t measure up,” Education Department spokesman Dennis Tompkins said Wednesday. “We invited several of the applicants to reapply in June and we gave them suggestions on how to improve their applications.”
The move comes as a shock to many. Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, Chair of the Education Committee, could not figure out why a highly-rated charter school in her district was denied the opportunity to open a second location.
“I support the state Department of Education in their chartering positions, but I was disappointed that Growing Up Green, which is an excellent example of what a community-based charter school can be, was turned down,” she said Thursday.
State education officials remain adamant in their decision, arguing that each of the applications showed a number of inconsistencies in the budget, curriculum and overall missions of the schools, reports Aaron Short for The New York Post. The decision marks the first time since 2010 that all charter school applications for New York City were rejected.
“The last thing we want to do is open up a charter school that cannot succeed, that we had worries about at the beginning,” said Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch. “I want quality charter schools. I want quality charter seats. I do not want to create a process that ensures in the next five years we have lists of failing charter schools.”
However, the decision was met with anger by charter school advocates, who do not believe the department’s explanation, arguing that the move was aligned with pro-teachers union politics, writes Yoav Gonen for The New York Post.
“The timing and nature of these blanket rejections should raise serious concerns for New Yorkers,” said Jeremiah Kittredge, CEO of the pro-charter group Families for Excellent Schools.
At the same time, Governor Andrew Cuomo is pushing for the charter school cap in the state to be increased from 460 to 560. Tisch claims the number is “arbitrary,” as there are still 157 such schools left to be approved across the state, including 25 in New York City.
Tisch also addressed the increasing number of parents who are choosing to opt out of state testing. At least 165,000 students across the state, or around one in six students, sat out on at least one of the two standardized exams administered this year. She said she is not supportive of the movement and plans to spend the following year reiterating how important standardized tests and the Common Core standards are, although she did say that she respects “every parent’s right to make decisions for their children.”