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New York Mayor Hints at New Charter School Standards for Co-Locations

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is gearing up to release a new set of standards for charter schools to share buildings with regular district schools, according to the education blog, Chalkbeat New York.de-Blasio-nyc-prek-school-500px.jpg

De Blasio hinted at what those standards might be during a press conference Thursday at a charter school in East Harlem that is run out of its own building—and has a unionized staff. Chalkbeat New York quoted de Blasio as saying that the school "exemplifies our values."

In order to earn space in a district school building, de Blasio said charters should have to serve more special education students, English-language learners, and students in older grades. Instructional practices may also play a role. De Blasio has been reevaluating the co-location policies promoted by his predecesor, former mayor Michael Bloomberg. In February of this year, de Blasio annulled three charter school co-location agreements, including one at a school that was already up and running. 

De Blasio's soon-to-be announced standards are a reaction to new protections laid out in a March budget deal which require the city to provide new charter schools with access to facilities. Those facilities could be either in a private building or a district school building, but the latter—already outfitted with cafeterias and gyms—is often preferred by charters. Here are the details from a Charters & Choice story from March 2014:

"As part of the budget agreement, charter schools in New York City will not have to pay rent if they are housed in district-owned facilities. Effective April 1, charter schools must approve any changes to their co-location agreements before they can be implemented. New York City charter schools looking to open or expand must receive a co-location space or the city will be required to fund either the cost of the lease of a privately owned facility or allocate an additional 20 percent of per-pupil funding."

Co-locations have been the subject of heated debate among Democrats in New York City, with de Blasio on one side and Success Academy founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz on the other. Success Academy is a New York City-based chain of about 30 high-performing charter schools that mostly serves minority students from low-income families. The charter network has depended on co-location policies as it spread across the city. (Finding facilities is a persistent problem for charter schools nationwide.)

A recent New York Times Magazine story dove into de Blasio and Moskowitz's relationship and competing visions:

"They are two liberal crusaders with profoundly divergent ideas about how the mission of aiding the disempowered should be carried out. De Blasio is essentially a populist; Moskowitz, whose network's board is filled with Wall Street 1-percenters, is hardly a woman of the people. The political differences have stoked personal enmity, with de Blasio moving to block the expansion of Moskowitz's network and Moskowitz mustering her own political resources to move him out of her way. The ultimate outcome of their clash may determine the city's educational future."

The two were also nearly competing mayoral primary candidates.

Success Academy has been the subject of much interest and debate in the education world not only because of the co-location battle, but also because its students have been outperforming their district counterparts and other high-profile charter school networks on state tests.

Photo: Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, visit a prekindergarten class Sept. 4, at the Sacred Heart School in the Staten Island borough of New York—Susan Watts/ New York Daily News/AP

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