The article also includes discussion by NYSUT president, Richard Iannuzzi, who name-dropped U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. Duncan "personally assured [Iannuzzi] New York is entitled to Race to the Top money," the article states.
"Entitled?" That would be a first for the Secretary, who has been publicly saying that "we're going to invest in those states that aren't just talking the talk but that are walking the walk." New York has been doing the former -- well, actually, the state's leaders haven't been doing much talking the talk, either.
At the risk of second-guessing the head of the statewide teachers union, could he have confused some wording here? New York has been informed by the U.S. Department of Education that it is eligible for Race to the Top funding. All that means is that the state can apply on a competitive basis for a grant, which is a far cry from being entitled to one. With the application guidance yet to be released by the Department and no due date for applications from states, it is hard to imagine the Secretary giving verbal assurance that New York was going to get an award; that is, "entitled."
Race to the Top Presumption is Risky
The key issue with Race to the Top funding is New York's competitiveness with other states, which is dubious in light of so many states enacting education reforms in response to this initiative by the Department -- exactly what the Obama Administration envisioned. Why then would the same Administration award a state like New York if it maintains its do-nothing, presumptuous posture? That would undermine the President's purpose for establishing the program in the first place.
Times Union education reporter, Scott Waldman, reminds us in today's story of Mr. Iannuzzi telling him that he (Iannuzzi) was wrong about his initial opposition to charter schools a decade ago, though he still doesn't like how they are funded. As an aside, either the district continues to pay for their own resident students in charters (which are counted in the district's state aid); or the state pays charters directly and removes them from district aid. Either way, NYSUT has to share the education pie in a more competitive public education sector.
If Mr. Iannuzzi has evolved in his views on charters to being more favorable, there is no reason for him to oppose lifting the charter cap. His reasoning that a cap insures "only the best of the best" charter proposals get approved is not the way it has worked in practice. SUNY, the Regents and the NYC Schools Chancellor have approved the "best of the best" by rejecting many charter applications over the years when there was plenty of room remaining under the cap.
Regardless of his private conversations with the Education Secretary, NYSUT should not risk costing New York hundreds of millions in Race to the Top with its penchant for recoilng at having to raise the charter cap. Larger issues are at stake. School districts with NYSUT members could use that federal money, too, especially with state education funding cuts looming.
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