Bloomberg calls for lifting charter cap, building more schools

Mayor Bloomberg called for eliminating the state cap on charter schools today and said he would raise millions of dollars for school facilities if he remains in office for a third term.

Citing the recent study by Stanford economist Caroline Hoxby, the mayor declared the city’s charter schools an indisputable success and said he would open 100 more. “I strongly support charter schools for one simple reason: they work,” he said at a campaign event held at the city’s first charter school, Sisulu-Walker, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary today.

I’ll have more on what the mayor said, and what others think of it later in the day, but here are the major proposals:

  • Eliminating the charter cap: This, like a third of the mayor’s charter school expansion proposals, would require approval from the mercurial state legislature. In 2005, the mayor tried and failed to get rid of the cap, but did manage to get it raised to 200 schools in 2007. Asked what’s different this time around, charter school advocates say the environment has changed. The state has nearly reached the allowable charter school limit and there’s pressure from the federal government and like Race to the Top to remove the cap.
  • More money for school construction: Though the city’s recently adopted five-year capital plan sets aside $200 million for charter school construction, Bloomberg said today that he would raise another $100 million in private funds. The additional money would come attached to charter school applications, which will be given preference if they come with private funding in hand.
  • Public housing space for charter schools: The mayor’s plan calls for using New York City Housing Authority facilities and land to house new charter schools. This could mean constructing mixed-use buildings on unused NYCHA land, which would hold both public housing and a charter school.
  • Two new Children’s Zones: The mayor plans to open two Children’s Zones, built on the model Geoffrey Canada has pioneered in East Harlem, as well as expand the Harlem program onto NYCHA-owned land. Bloomberg said the new programs would open in central Brooklyn and the South Bronx.
  • Public service announcements: Coming to a subway near you, a charter school awareness campaign that would include radio spots, TV ads, and billboard signs.