NEW YORK - Mayor Eric Adams is clearing the air about whether he supports more charter schools in New York City.
"Yes, I support charter schools," Mayor Adams said emphatically on WABC Radio. He clarified comments he made to state lawmakers during his trip up to Albany last week, when he testified on Governor Kathy Hochul’s budget proposal to lift the cap on charter schools.
Adams said this proposal would cost the city around $1 billion.
However, later that same day when pressed on this issue, he pledged his support for all schools that work.
"I've gone into district schools that have been wonderful, I've gone into charter schools that have been wonderful," Adams said at a press conference in Albany following his testimony. "So why not look at those who are educating our children and scale up what works?"
James Merriman, CEO of the NYC Charter School Center, says he believes Adams is supportive of charter schools but pushed back on the idea that lifting the charter school cap would cost the city $1 billion.
"Those are costs that are going to come on when all 85 schools have opened up," Merriman said. "And that's a 15 to 20-year process."
Hochul has argued that the state’s cap of 460 charter schools should stay in place, but if the cap is lifted for the city, then there are around 85 charter licenses available for schools in the city.
But this could prove to be a tough sell with the state legislature.
"I'm not willing to go along with the charter expansion, basically the governor opened the door up for a floodgate to New York City," Senator Robert Jackson said during the hearing in Albany.
Right now there are 275 charter schools operating in the city and 23 so-called "zombie schools." This is a charter that has been designated to a school that is no longer in operation, but this charter still can’t be used for a different school.
Merriman says this at the very least needs to be fixed.
"To the extent we have a cap, which I don't think we should, certainly it should be a cap on the number of operating schools, not numbers of charters issued?" Merriman said.
The United Federation of Teachers has been pushing back strongly against lifting the charter school cap and issued a statement in response.
"Charters have always been a drain on public schools, never more so than in New York City," a UFT spokesperson said. "Here charters are legally entitled to either free public space or taxpayers pay for rent in a private space - money that should support New York City public school students, not corporate charter chains. New York City elected officials understand the cost of charters - they see it played out in their districts."
The state budget is due on April 1st.