FDR's 1st VP, John Nance Garner (L), had no use for the vice-presidency; but NYSUT's Dick Iannuzzi (R) sure loved hitching a ride on his successor's airplane!
"The vice presidency isn't worth a pitcher of warm [bleep]!"
So said John Nance Garner, the first of FDR's three Vice Presidents. 'Ol "Cactus Jack" had a way of summing up his eight years on the job. Of course, that was before Air Force Two and other modern perks that make the job more interesting and perhaps relevant.
The vice presidency certainly seems relevant to Richard Iannuzzi, the head of the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), who made a point of informing the readers of City Hall last week that he was a recent passenger on Joe Biden's jet. (Ordinary folk like the rest of us aren't so lucky.) This luxury flight afforded him a private audience with the U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, who also was along for the ride, where Mr. Iannuzzi made the pitch for New York getting a "major slice" of the $4.35 billion federal Race to the Top funding, according to City Hall (here).
Iannuzzi said the Secretary "indicated that there would be no barriers for applying for the funds." But, we knew that, without having to fly free on Air Force Two; so this revelation isn't worth a warm bucket of ... (you get the picture).
The problem for New York is its lack of real education reforms to make the state's application competitive. Education Commissioner David Steiner is seeking to remedy this by recommending major and impressive reforms in teacher training, data systems and other areas for the Regents to adopt before submission of the state's Race to the Top application in January.
Charter Points Matter in Very Competitive Race
This may not be enough in a very tight competition among the states. What also matters to the Feds is what states are doing with charter schools, which adds up to 40 points on the Department of Education's scoring rubric, or 8 percent of the total points for a Race to the Top grant. That is a lot of points, which puts New York at a disadvantage.
The state is about to reach its charter cap and a spokesperson for the New York City Department of Education said it would no longer approve new charter schools until it's lifted. Charter schools also are not provided equitable funding and are being denied the federal Stimulus dollars due to the charter funding "freeze" imposed by the state legislature -- arguably a violation of the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that required education Stimulus funds to be disbursed on an equitable basis to district and charter public schools alike.
These barriers on charter schools will penalize New York in a competition like this, risking hundreds of millions of dollars in the process. This needs to be understood and appreciated by Mr. Iannuzzi, the Regents, Governor Paterson and the legislature, particularly the Assembly. Dislike for charter schools from any of these camps is not worth continuing this months-long group-think on Race to the Top, as it will lead to spurning the Obama Administration's agenda and foregoing needed federal dollars to benefit all New York's students in public education.
In case anyone missed the subtlety, New York City Mayor Bloomberg included charter schools in his speech this morning in Washington, D.C. that outlined reform ideas for New York to adopt to compete for Race to the Top -- with Secretary Duncan at his side (see here).
It's Getting Late
Time is running out. The state will submit its Race to the Top application in seven weeks, with holidays intervening. The Regents should support a cap lift and facility funding for charters, among other reforms. The legislature can follow suit and get beyond any remaining phobia about more charters. After all, it raised the charter cap once before and there are plenty of existing administrative checks in place to ensure quality schools, including the Regents themselves which review and oversee all of them.
Charters have been successful for New York students for a decade, and they are key to President Obama's vision for states to reform public education. It's past time for New York's policymakers to understand this and do what it takes by mid-January for the state to submit the strongest application possible for Race to the Top.
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