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New Charter School In Albany - Public Comments Sought

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The charter school business is booming in New York's Capital City, with 2,200 students are enrolled in nine publicly financed, privately operated charter schools in Albany. Five charter schools have filed applications that will be up for public comment Thursday.

The City School District of Albany has scheduled a public hearing Thursday at William S. Hackett Middle School at 6 p.m. to hear public comment on the applications, including one proposal that would create a new 400-student charter elementary school in Albany.

Bob Bellafiore is a spokesman for the Northeast Charter Schools Network.    "State law allows local school districts to hold hearings whenever there's a new charter school proposed or a renewal proposed. Renewals are required because if charter schools fail to perform, fail to demonstrate learning by their students they can be closed."

This year the SUNY Board of Trustees decided not to renew Ark Charter School's operating license after determining the Troy school could not meet performance standards. Nonetheless, Bellafiore notes charters continue to thrive as an option for parents...    "...particularly inner city parents who can't afford to move to the suburbs or afford the housing or the taxes in Niskayuna or Clifton Park or Bethlehem but still want high quality choices."

Three schools are looking to renew their charters for three years: Albany Leadership Charter High School for Girls and the two Brighter Choice Middle Schools.

Henry Johnson Charter School and  KIPP Tech Valley Charter School are seeking  five-year renewals. KIPP currently has 300 students enrolled in grades 5-8. According to the SUNY Charter Schools Institute, KIPP wants to add 400 students in grades K-4 , raising the student count to 700.

Alliance For Quality Education policy coordinator Marina Marcou-O'Malley:  "It seems that in the Albany area there is a very large number of schools - so much so that it has a fiscal impact on the district."

If approved by the SUNY Board of Trustees, KIPP’s upgrade could significantly impact the district’s annual charter expenses.  "Clearly in areas like Albany, things will only get much more difficult for the district to cough up this money, and with the charter cap and limited state aid, the district is more in a constraint."

Ron Lesko is spokesman for the City School District of Albany: "We have too many charter schools in our community. Our residents can't afford to foot the bill for another taxpayer funded school, and neither can our business owners. Another 5.6 million dollars annually on top of the nearly 35 million dollars we already pay each year, more than a quarter Billion Dollars over time."

The SUNY Board of Trustees is expected to act on all five applications this winter.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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