Interested in starting a charter school in New York? Read on for some of the history of charter schools in New York, the unique challenges you might face, and the step-by-step plan to begin your charter school journey.
History of Charter Schools in New York
New York became the 34th state to welcome charter schools in 1998, after the passing of the New York Charter Schools Act. In 1999, two charter schools in New York City and one in Albany opened their doors to students. When the law was first enacted, there was a limit of 100 charter new schools and no limit on the number of public schools that could convert to charter schools. Since then, the cap at 100 charter schools has increased to 460. In the 2020-2021 school year, New York charter schools served over 150,000 students. In a state where approximately two in ten children live in poverty, public charter schools are believed to be students’ best shot at making a better future for themselves. Still, charter school success doesn’t come without a fair share of challenges.
Challenges for Charter Schools in New York State
If you’re interested in starting a charter school in New York, you’ll want to be prepared to address these common challenges:
- Finding school facilities. Securing school buildings is a costly task for charter schools, and in New York City especially, the number of adequate, affordable buildings is slim. Moreover, securing the proper facilities takes time and money—two resources charter schools often lack.
- Lengthy application processes. The application process is rigorous and requires ample planning and details that deter some charter school startups from even starting. Applicants are expected to have educational, organizational, and financial plans in order when applying to authorizers. Charter school startups should also have evidence to prove that the founding group can operate the school effectively.
- Lack of resources. Although charter schools are publicly funded, they often receive less funding compared to traditional public schools. Running a charter just like any other school requires funding to provide students with an adequate education. Charter schools in New York are left with no choice but to find federal or foundational grants.
Authorizers of Charter Schools in New York
Authorizers are in charge of approving charter school applications, providing oversight of approved schools, evaluating school’s charter renewal applications, and updating the public with each school’s progress, according to SUNY Charter School Institute. Before you begin the process to start a charter school in New York, you’ll want to know which authorizer you’d like to apply through. New York has three authorizers:
- The State Education Department (NYSED)
- The State University of New York (SUNY)
- The NYC Department of Education
Each authorizer has its specific application process and timeline, so it’s essential to decide which one you want to work with early.
Steps for Starting a Charter School in New York
Are you ready to start your own charter school in New York? If the answer is yes, here’s how you can get started:
- Decide which authorizer you and your team would like to work with on your school. Remember, there are three different authorizers in New York. Do your research to find the right fit.
- Submit a Letter of Intent to the authorizer of your choice. Authorizers will put forth a Request for Proposals (RFP), and you must respond with your letter of intent. Then, if approved, they’ll invite you back to submit a thorough proposal.
- Complete the Capacity interview. Capacity interviews allow authorizers to “ask clarifying questions” to the founding group about their application. If you nail that, you’re one step away from getting approval.
- Receive approval from a Board of Regents. Once your charter has been issued, you’re free to start implementing your next steps, such as hiring and opening enrollment.
Examples of Successful Charter Schools in New York
Charter schools in New York aim to reach and educate students in innovative ways that ensure academic success, and many of the state’s charter schools are performing off the charts. Learn more about some of the successful charter schools in New York:
- Success Academy Charter Schools (New York, NY) have certainly lived up to its name. The charter school network operates 45 schools in New York City, and 20 of their schools ranked on a list of 30 highest-performing elementary schools in the state for the 2018-2019 school year.
- The Charter School of Educational Excellence (Yonkers, NY) has seen continued success. Test scores reveal that CSEE students outperform traditional public school students on ELA and math exams. The charter school is doing so well that it’s in the process of expanding its campus and adding a high school.
- The Equality High School (Bronx, NY) highly focuses on academic achievement for its students who predominantly enter the school with low math and reading proficiency. Even with those headwinds, ECS brings its students up to proficiency by their senior year, and the school has an overall graduation rate of 85 percent.
Ensuring Long-Term Success for Your Charter School in New York
Operating a successful charter school calls for preparedness. Here are the best practices observed at high-performing charter schools in the country:
- Create a mission statement that embodies academic success. The best charter schools have a clear mission statement that emphasizes academic success and personal development for students. Your mission statement should be easy to follow and understand.
- Integrate the mission across school programming. Thriving charter schools don’t only have excellent mission statements, but they embody them. To be an effective charter school, the mission must be implemented in the school’s curriculum, its hiring practices, and more.
- Encourage a supportive environment at the school. Meet each student where they are and create systems to help get students back on track. Successful charter schools cultivate a community around caring for their students.
- Engage parents and caregivers in the students’ education. Partnering with parents to develop education strategies and be involved in their child’s overall school experience has proved to be a best practice for many successful charter schools. Students with involved parents are more likely to have higher grades and test scores, regardless of a student’s income or background.
- Invest in enrollment marketing. Launch social media campaigns, email newsletters, and digital ads to reach your future students. Successful charter schools need successful students, so prioritize your enrollment marketing.
Finding a Building for your New York Charter School
You’ve got your mission statement and everything else to start your charter school, but what about your building? Finding facilities for New York charter schools is a complex, costly task, and funding charter schools in New York can be a challenge. However, New York has passed state law to provide some relief for unhoused charter schools.
In New York City, charter schools often share buildings with other non-charter public schools or are given free public buildings to use. But charter schools have to request rental assistance from the Department of Education when facilities aren’t available. Relying on rental aid isn’t the first option for most charter schools, so securing proper funding is essential for charter school startups. Providing facilities financing is one of our areas of expertise.
Do You See Yourself as a New York Charter School Leader?
Starting and operating a charter school in New York can be challenging and can also be extremely rewarding. However, once you make it past the initial startup hurdle, you can create a brighter and more innovative future for thousands of students.
Get the chance to make a difference in students’ lives by starting your charter school in New York.
Whether you’re just beginning the process of starting up a charter school, looking to expand, or trying to prioritize your next steps, this guide is for you.
You’ll find advice from experienced charter school leaders who deeply understand the unique terrain of charter school growth—they have been where you are now. You’ll get tips for you and your team on developing a strong charter, building culture and community support, and boosting your financing and practices to support your growth.