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Published in Print: June 23, 1999, as First N.Y. Charters Are Approved

First N.Y. Charters Are Approved

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Less than six months after New York state enacted a law authorizing the state's first charter schools, a university panel last week gave its blessing to eight such schools, including three slated to open in September.

The schools due to open this year--two of them in New York City's Harlem and the third in Albany--plan to serve disadvantaged children. Two of the three are to be run by for-profit companies in partnership with nonprofit groups or individuals, as are two of the five additional schools planning to open in 2000.

The approval of the eight proposals by the trustees of the State University of New York was hailed by Gov. George E. Pataki, who had pushed hard for the charter law approved in December. "Creation of charter schools represents the single greatest improvement in education in state history," the Republican governor said last week. ("At 11th Hour, N.Y. Approves 'Strong' New Charter Law," Jan. 13, 1999.)

But the state and New York City affiliates of the American Federation of Teachers chided the SUNY trustees for failing to solicit public comment on the proposals before their approval. They also strongly objected to the operation of schools for profit.

Randi Weingarten, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, the city union, said: "We question whether New Yorkers really want the taxes they pay for education to go for not books and instructors for children, but to line the pockets of billionaire financiers."

SUNY officials plan to soon submit the proposed charters to the state board of regents, which oversees elementary, secondary, and higher education. Even if the board does not approve the charters, they automatically take effect after 60 days.

The law allows the SUNY trustees and the regents to approve up to 50 new charter schools each. The regents have received no applications to date.

--Caroline Hendrie

Vol. 18, Issue 41, Page 23

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