SUNY approves 2 new Long Island charter schools despite political opposition

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The State University of New York Board of Trustees on Tuesday approved the opening of two new charter schools on Long Island despite opposition from a powerful lawmaker and K-12 education regulators.

Both the Academy Charter School in Wyandach and the South Shore Charter School in Central Islip could open their doors as early as this fall, SUNY and charter school officials said.

SUNY trustees said it was “incidental” that they green-lighted the two new charter schools a day after The Post reported that state Sen. John Liu (D-Queens) is pushing for a law that would bar SUNY from unilaterally approving charter schools in the future.

SUNY officials now have dual authority with the state Board of Regents to issue charter school applications. But Liu’s proposal calls for the Regents — who are appointed by Democratic lawmakers more aligned with the anti-charter teachers’ union and the educational establishment — to approve any charter proposal recommended by SUNY.

Families in Suffolk County could flock to the two new charter schools — with fair reason.

John Liu at a hearing.
Liu’s proposal calls for the Regents to approve any charter proposal recommended by SUNY, which would bar SUNY from unilaterally approving charter schools in the future.
HANS PENNINK

In 2019, only 24 percent of students in the Wyandach school district were proficient on the state’s English exams and just 20 percent were proficient in Math, according to results on the state’s standardized exams.

In the Central Islip school district, just 29 percent of students were proficient in English and 28 percent in math.

“I’m happy for the families of Central Islip, Bayshore and Brookhaven,” said Dermoth Mattison, founder and CEO of the South Shore Charter School.

“This is a win for a generation of families. We have received tremendous support from families who want options for academic excellence.”

Profile photos of Mattison and Belluck
Mattison, left, said SUNY’s charter approval was a win for Long Island families, while Belluck said Liu’s attack on SUNY and charter schools “is very unfortunate.”
LinkedIn, Twitter

SUNY officials approved the two charter schools over the objections of the Regents, who sided with district administrators and the teachers’ union who argued financial resources should be focused on existing, albeit low performing, traditional district public schools.

Charter schools are publicly funded but privately managed alternative schools that typically have a longer school day and year and whose staffers are mostly non-union, unlike traditional public schools.

Mattison said he was baffled by Liu’s legislation to strip SUNY’s power to approve charter schools.

“SUNY’s charter schools have consistently outperformed the district schools where they are located. The current system is working for families,” Mattison said.

George Pataki, former governor of New York, speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview in 2017.
Former Gov. George Pataki, who authorized charter schools in 1998, said he deliberately gave SUNY the authority to approve the alternative schools because he feared the Regents would not be as supportive.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Liu’s attack on SUNY and charter schools “is very unfortunate,” said Joseph Belluck, chair of SUNY’s charter school committee.

Belluck said it would be “difficult if not impossible” to open charter schools if Liu’s bill giving the Regents veto power over applications becomes law.

“There isn’t any basis to modify the law,” added Belluck, emphasizing that SUNY has acted responsibly as a charter school authorizer.

Former Gov. George Pataki, who drafted and approved the initial law authorizing charter schools back in 1998, said he deliberately inserted language giving SUNY the authority to approve the alternative schools because he feared the Regents would not be as supportive.

The governor appoints the trustees to SUNY’s governing board.

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