Wednesday, January 27, 2010

New York Could Use the $700 Million

Nice to see the NYT weighing in on blasting Albany – but as I note below, the real culprit is the UFT.  On the same day that Randi was giving her annual look-what-a-reformer-I-am speech in DC, an army of her lobbyists (seriously) were in Albany trying to destroy the highly successful NY state charter movement.  Maybe that's her job to try to kill anything and everything that channels a penny away from her members, regardless of what's best for kids – but we need to make it crystal clear who's looking out for kids, and who's looking out for adults:


January 26, 2010

NYT Editorial

New York Could Use the $700 Million

Because of a disagreement over charter schools, legislative leaders in Albany are in danger — once again — of letting hundreds of millions of federal dollars slip through their fingers.

Washington is making $4 billion in education funds available under a program called Race to the Top. The money is aimed at encouraging states to improve or close failing schools, keep the most-qualified teachers and expand well-run charter schools. New York's share could be as much as $700 million. The deadline for state applications was last Tuesday, and most states jumped at the opportunity. New York submitted its application, but it lacked a crucial ingredient: a plan that would allow for more charter schools.

A bill favored by legislative leaders would have doubled the number of charter schools allowed in the state to 400. But the bill was flawed and faced an almost certain veto from Gov. David Paterson. The big problem was that it would have undercut the schools' independence by transferring the power to create charter schools from local authorities to the Board of Regents, which is appointed by the Legislature.

This shift particularly offended Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He called the bill a "wolf in sheep's clothing." It would definitely have been a step backward from a system that has mostly worked well, especially in New York City. Charter schools are not without flaws. Their finances should be more transparent. And public-school parents often resent sharing much-needed space with charter schools. But none of these criticisms are a reason for Albany to undercut the whole system or give up on federal funds, especially during a state budget crisis.

A second round of applications for federal aid is due this summer. By then, the Legislature should be able to organize hearings and come up with a plan for the entire state. Otherwise, New York runs the risk of forfeiting, once again, money it needs badly. In 2008, Albany failed to approve even an experimental version of Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan that would have imposed fees on cars coming into Manhattan during rush hours. That cost the city millions of dollars in federal transportation funds. New York can't afford a repeat performance.

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