That's what occurred in Buffalo with its Superintendent of Schools, James Williams, announcing his change of heart about charter schools by backing the Board of Regents application for federal Race to the Top funding, which includes raising the charter school cap. Today's Buffalo News reports on these developments here, with some revealing quotes from district officials captured by education reporter, Peter Simon.
Dr. Williams previously recommended to the Buffalo Board of Education to request that the Regents impose a "moratorium" on approving any new charter schools for Buffalo. The Chalkboard strongly criticized the district's position (here). By now supporting the Regents reform plan, and the federal money that would accrue to Buffalo as a result, the moratorium idea goes out the window.
Buffalo Moratorium Request a Dead Letter
Then again, the school district may as well support the Regents Race to the Top application since Buffalo's charter moratorium request has been a dead letter since mid-December. The Regents responded to the district's moratorium request through the head of the Education Department's charter school office, Barbara Moscinski. In her letter to Board of Education president, Ralph Hernandez, Ms. Moscinski explained the Regents chartering process and the law governing it. She wrote that the Department and Regents "will abide by the language of the law."
In other words, there ain't gonna be no moratorium for Buffalo. Request denied.
This very dry, bureaucratic response tells the larger story: if a worthy charter school proposal comes in and would provide a "significant educational benefit" to students in Buffalo, why would the Regents deny those students just to appease the adults running the district? It makes no sense for the Regents to tie their hands and they refused to do so. Good for them.
So, while it's encouraging that Dr. Williams had this supposed change of heart and said very right-minded things to the Buffalo News, there's a backdrop that was omitted. But, hey, we'll take it. Hopefully the superintendent's new reform mindset will continue, which many in Buffalo were hoping to see since he arrived on the scene.
Welcome back, Dr. Williams.
Buffalo Board Prez Amazes
In contrast to all of this, the long-time head of the Buffalo Teachers Federation (BTF), Phil Rumore, also came out against the Regents reform and the money that would go with it. Potential teacher salary increases could result from what he acknowledges is "a lot of money." Still the dollars aren't worth it to Mr. Rumore since education reforms and accountability are part of the package. No one should be shocked. We'll soon see if he prevails with the school board and city common council to follow his lead. Mr. Rumore should, however, move up his January 21st meeting of union delegates to vote on Race to the Top since the state's application is due to the U.S. Department of Education two days prior, on the 19th.
As for Ralph Hernandez, he continues to read from the BTF's talking points. As head of the school board he pushed for the charter moratorium and is disinclined to support the Regents education reforms, which says much about his priorities these days. He told the Buffalo News he is "troubled" about many aspects of the Regents plan, including the provision that would evaluate teachers on student test scores.
The reality is that Buffalo's students need this and other Regents reforms, which would increase teacher accountability and bring about school turnarounds; and which are especially designed for low-performing urban districts like Buffalo. Yet, Mr. Hernandez is still "troubled." What's next, Ralph? Naming your next child, Phil?
for The Chalkboard
Disclaimer: The Chalkboard is hosted by the New York Charter Schools Association (NYCSA) as a place where members, public education advocates and others can view and respond to informed commentary on timely public education and charter school issues. The views expressed here are not necessarily the official views of the NYCSA, its board, or of any of its individual charter school members. Anyone who claims otherwise is violating the spirit and purpose of this blog. To comment on anything you read here, or to offer tips, advice, comments, or complaints. please contact TheChalkboard.