While the state’s cap of 460 charter schools isn’t raised in Gov. Kathy Hochul’s executive budget proposal, the regional cap on charters is removed, something that is particularly important in New York City which has reached its cap on charters, while parts of upstate New York have not. 

There are about 85 charter slots that are still up for grabs. 

But the proposal has been blasted by lawmakers and the teachers’ unions, including the United Federation of Teachers. The teachers’ unions have long argued that charters “cream” the best students and dismiss those who do poorly. But James Merriman, CEO of the New York City Charter School Center, told Capital Tonight those arguments are stale.

“They’re kind of running out of talking points in my view,” Merriman said. “While there used to be very large disparities, now for instance, with special education students, we are within a percentage point or two of where the district is in terms of how many students we have.”

Merriman also stated that the number of English Language Learners in charter schools has increased. 

“If you look at kindergarten and other entering grades, we are almost getting to the point where we’re at parity,” he said.

Merriman is also aggravated by the union’s assertions that charter schools aren’t transparent because, he said, the schools are subject to audits by the New York City comptroller. 

But Merriman is pleased with the governor’s proposed budget because it would allow for new schools to open in New York City where they are needed.

“In New York City right now, we have a cap, and we have educators, folks of color, who want to start a charter school, who know how to run a charter school and who would provide a great school for neighborhoods and they can’t. They’re just stuck. They are stymied by a legislative cap that has no business being,” he said. 

As for the rest of the budget, Merriman approves of the record funding earmarked for K-12 schools.

“Spent well, that money is needed and necessary because coming out of the pandemic, we’re in a real crisis,” he said.