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Fight Continues Over Space-Sharing Agreements for N.Y.C. Charter Schools

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After New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's announcement that he would be revoking the co-location agreements for three charter schools, including one that is already in operation, charter school advocates, lawmakers, and politicians across the state—and country—have been weighing in on the turmoil.

New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is—like de Blasio—a Democrat, joined charter school advocates at a rally in Albany last Tuesday, which coincided with a long-planned rally by Mayor de Blasio to garner support for his plan to impose a new tax on wealthy New Yorkers to pay for a preK and after-school program expansion in the city.

This morning, Gov. Cuomo was interviewed on The Brian Lehrer show about his views on charters, the co-location decision, and mayoral control. (He begins talking about charter schools around minute 9:07.)

"[Charter schools] are very important for the system," he said in the interview. "I think they bring creativity, they bring innovation, and they bring choice." But he was careful to differentiate his support for charter schools with his belief that decisions about co-location should be made by mayors.

"Does this co-location make sense in this school at this time with this number of students or not? That's up to the mayor in my opinion," he said. "I don't think we should leave it up the mayors whether or not charter schools are allowed to operate and continue and grow. I believe we should have a state policy on that."

Last Friday, New York City schools chancellor Carmen Fariña did agree to help look for a location for the 194 displaced students at the currently operating charter school that had its co-location agreement rescinded. She had previously stated that the school would be "on [its] own."

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, under whose tenure charter schools flourished, recently spoke with Yahoo News anchor Katie Couric about the situation as well. He deferred her questions about the impact of Mayor de Blasio's decision on rescinding co-location agreements to the current administration, but did advocate for charter schools, saying "the thing with charter schools is they are public schools and they provide a great education for a lot of kids ... and they act as a role model for other public schools." 

Meanwhile, on the Center for Reinventing Public Education's blog, the organization's founder Paul Hill used the situation in New York City to advocate for a new way of managing public school buildings altogether. He suggested putting the ownership of school buildings into the hands of a public real estate trust and giving all public schools, including charters, an equal per-pupil share of facilities construction and maintenance funds.

For more background about charter schools' perennial struggle to find and finance affordable facilities, take a look back at the story I wrote this summer on that topic.

And just a quick housekeeping note: I will be out of the office for the next two weeks, so posting on the blog may be light. We'll pick up again in full force on March 31. 

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