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New York Legislature Approves Bill Expanding Charter Schools

By Hasani Gittens
|  Wednesday, Sep 15, 2010  |  Updated 1:25 PM EDT
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New York Legislature Approves Bill Expanding Charter Schools

Who wants more charter schools?

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New York's Legislature and Gov. David Paterson on Friday agreed to expand the number of charter schools in an effort to qualify for more than $500 million in federal Race to the Top education funds.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and his Democrat-led chamber worked overnight to negotiate and take the vote in time for Tuesday's deadline to submit the application. The measure will raise the number of charters available for the innovative public schools to 460 over four years, from the current 200.

The Democrat-led Senate acted Friday to pass the same bill.

"The agreement to raise the cap on charter schools in New York State from 200 to 460 is not just great news for the 40,000 plus children currently on waiting lists – it’s also good news for all 1.1 million New York City students," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Charter schools elevate the quality of our entire public education system by increasing competition and challenging all of our schools to do a better job for our kids, and that’s the most important thing."

Paterson said he's confident the bill will "greatly increase our competitiveness in the second round of Race to the Top. Agreement on this measure signals recognition by all of our state's leaders that for the sake of our children, our schools and our economy, we cannot afford to let these critical education dollars slip away."

In January, the Assembly and Senate failed to agree to increase charters. Paterson has said the limit needed to be raised to at least 454 charters to have a shot at the competitive federal grants. New York lost in the first round.

State Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo released a statement simply saying, "Amen."

The state's powerful state teachers unions had opposed the efforts.

But city teachers, lead by United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, were less against the measure.

Mulgrew released a statement saying, "I am happy to see that the charter bill before by the Legislature today incorporates all these critical reforms, though it does not go far enough to address concerns about oversaturation of charter schools in certain districts."

Mulgrew also pointed out that "while enactment of this charter reform legislation will help the state's chances in the Race to the Top, it is important to remember that Race to the Top federal funds cannot be used to close budget gaps."

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