-Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education
Secretary Duncan asked the correct question yesterday at a conference at Harlem Children's Zone regarding the statutory cap on charter schools, as reported in today's New York Post (here).
So far, key officials in New York treat this obvious answer like its a proverbial "3rd Rail."
Charter schools have had documented academic success for children throughout the state, which has been confirmed by outside studies; they are in high demand by parents; and they are schools which are held accountable, as a dozen or so have been closed in the last decade.
The Post reports that Duncan warned that federal Race to the Top dollars will be doled out only to places that "challenge the status quo."
Several important New York State officials appear perfectly content that the status quo is just fine, especially when it comes to charter schools. Governor Paterson has proposed nothing on charter schools to help secure this funding, even though he called the legislature back to Albany to enact mid-year budget cuts. Nor has there been much no movement in the legislature, though some discussion continues behind the scenes on legislation introduced by Assemblyman Hoyt and Senator Jeff Klein.
Education Commissioner David Steiner initially appeared in no rush to raise the charter cap, but we will know more later this week to see if the Secretary's remarks have an impact. Regents Chancellor Tisch last week promised an "aggressively bold application" for Race to the Top, but an application doesn't change state law; it's merely good intentions.
A strong application from New York would be an important start, but this Race to the Top issue is a train leaving the station and New York is not on board. Today's New York Times discussed how several states are taking this program seriously (here), with no mention of New York State.
Mixed Signals from Washington
One explanation for this disconnect between Duncan's admonitions and the lack of action in New York may be the mixed signals coming from Washington. New York officials are being told by various policymakers in Washington, in effect, "you're okay; you don't need to do anything." Yet Duncan and his boss, the President of the United States, show no signs publicly of backing down on the seriousness of the Race to the Top program and the innovation and education reform they want to see enacted at the state level.
Perhaps they need to remind their underlings to send the same message privately.
for The Chalkboard
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