Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Doing right by New York schools

A HUGE shout-out for NY State Senator Craig Johnson, a Democrat who represents a district on Long Island that doesn't even have any charter schools, yet he nevertheless bucked his own party and played an instrumental role in killing the hostile-to-charters bill that the unions very nearly got passed recently by the gutless weasels in Albany.  Here's his Op Ed in today's NY Post:


NYPOST: Doing right by New York schools

January 25, 2010


Last week, my support for strong legislation to reform New York's education system and my subsequent opposition to an alternative "consensus" measure were both praised and derided by Albany's political class.

My decision was guided by my conscience. I asked myself one question. What legislation was best for all of New York's children? Facing a terrible economic climate and a state budget proposal that includes significant cuts in aid for our schools, we had a golden opportunity to qualify for up to $700 million in badly needed federal education funds.

Qualifying for the Race to the Top grant meant embracing the goals set by Education Secretary Arne Duncan to foster innovation in education policy. I'm a longtime supporter of the education-reform movement -- since before I began serving in the state Senate -- so I was happy to back (along with many others) robust legislation that would make our educational system more competitive.

Yes, that included raising the state's cap on charter schools -- alternative public schools that have produced many success stories across New York. While there are no charters in the district I represent, I'm not blind to good they've done elsewhere. And this legislation not only raised the charter cap, but also established new accountability and transparency requirements for these schools.

Of course, since it's Albany, politics intervened. As a result, this muscular reform legislation was cast aside in favor of a weaker bill -- "consensus" legislation that would have gutted the current charter-school program and put New York in a significantly weaker position to qualify for the federal funds. For these reasons, I opposed this measure, which in the end didn't come for a vote in the Senate or the Assembly.

It was strongly suggested to me that my stand was somehow a show of disloyalty. I reject that notion. Most Race to the Top funds would go to traditional public schools in New York. Just as I did when I opposed mid-year school cuts in this most recent deficit-reduction plan, my motive is to preserve the overall quality of educational system, as well as protect the property-tax payers that I represent.

The legislation that I support, and put my name on, would have a greater chance to accomplish this aim and help expand educational opportunities for children across New York. I'd like to believe that this is a goal that everyone shares.

Craig M. Johnson represents the 7th Senate District, which covers northwestern Nassau County.

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