For Immediate Release: November 12, 2019
Contact: Abdul Sada / asada@skdknick.com / 631-827-5206

NYC CHARTER SCHOOL CENTER RELEASES ACCOUNTABILITY WHITE PAPER OUTLINING THE OVERSIGHT PROCESSES OF NYC CHARTER SCHOOLS

New Paper Dispels Myths Around Accountability and Spotlights the Rigorous Regulatory Regime Surrounding Opening and Operating an NYC Charter School

(NEW YORK) – The New York City Charter School Center today released a new, first-of-its-kind document – a Charter School Accountability and Oversight” white paper – that details the rigorous process for opening and operating a public charter school in New York. While opponents of public charter schools continue to propound myths around a supposed lack of accountability, the fact is New York State has some of the most thorough requirements in the country. The paper both dispels false claims about a lack of charter oversight as well as spotlights the meticulous process of starting and running a school, synthesizing complex state laws into an easy-to-understand narrative. 

The paper includes a variety of key regulatory facts that are necessary to understand the charter landscape, including:

  • Applicants must first submit a Letter of Intent – or LOI – that outlines, among other things, the applicant team and Board’s expertise, research supporting the proposed curriculum, and plans for financial sustainability. Proposed schools must demonstrate that their school fills a need in the neighborhood by surveying parents with age-appropriate students, meeting with, and securing endorsements from community-based organizations and local elected officials.  
  • A vast majority of those who apply for a charter do not receive one. Between 2016 and 2019, New York’s authorizers received 232 LOIs to open a charter school. Ultimately, only 66 schools were authorized, an average approval percentage of 27%.
  • Charter applications submitted to SUNY, one of two state authorizers, undergo approximately 60 hours of review and analysis before receiving a final recommendation as to whether to open. 
  • Once chartered, schools must sign a contract – the charter agreement – which holds them to an extensive set of benchmarks that the school must meet in ordered to be considered for a renewal term in five years. This contract includes metrics for student achievement, governance, and financial management, as well as numerous reporting requirements.
  • Once a school opens, site visits can happen as often as every year, but always during the first, third, and fifth year of the charter. Authorizers have the right and do conduct surprise, unannounced visits. 
  • In addition, each year, charter schools are required to submit an annual report in which the school details everything from its progress toward its academic goals to its enrollment and retention of high needs students to teacher and administrator attrition.
  • Charter schools are required to conduct annual audits and must submit an audited financial statement conducted by an independent accountant to detail the revenues and expenditures of the preceding school year.
  • Formal visits from authorizers generally take place over several days and include required reporting, classroom observations and, staff, parent, and board member interviews. Following the visit, the Authorizer produces a report assessing the school, noting areas that need improvement, the school’s progress toward achievement of goals outlined in the charter, and whether the school is in compliance with applicable laws and regulations. 
  • While the city currently maintains a policy of refusing to close low-performing traditional district schools, over the last 20 years, 42 charter schools have been closed, most for failing to meet student achievement goals.

“There are many opponents of public charter schools who actively seek to spread myths. This document shows the facts, illustrating the rigor and depth of New York’s processes for creating and operating a charter school. We have one of the strongest and, at the same time, generally thoughtful regulatory regimes in the country, and our current systems are working,” said Charter Center CEO James Merriman. “Over the last 20 years, public charter schools have helped transform the education landscape in New York City, delivering exceptional results. By maintaining smart systems and laws, they’ll continue to deliver exceptional outcomes for the next 20.”

Read the full Charter School Accountability and Oversight white paper. For more information on the New York City Charter School Center, visit www.nyccharterschools.org