"Substantial" Change Needed to Convert Schools

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Mayor Bloomberg has offered to help the Diocese of Brooklyn convert four Catholic schools into charter schools. But as WNYC's Beth Fertig reports, the church and the city are wading into unchartered waters.

REPORTER: State law prohibits a private school from being converted into a charter school. But technically, the Catholic schools could close and then reopen so long as they're substantially different. Peter Murphy, policy director for the New York State Charter Schools Association, says that means they might need a different board, staffers, or even different assets and property.

MURPHY: There's an ability to do that right now but there just has to be enough of a difference between what's operating now and what would become the charter school.

REPORTER: The schools would also have to take down their crucifixes and teach the regular state curriculum. Mayor Bloomberg wants legislators to grant an exemption to a law requiring them to hold lotteries, so students in the existing Catholic schools could remain. Bloomberg has said he's willing to help the financially-strapped Diocese turn four schools into charters to avoid overcrowding the public schools. For WNYC, I'm Beth Fertig.