This RFP chartering idea has already been tried in New York -- and failed miserably.
We've Seen This Failed Act Before: "21st Century Schools"
In 1994, Governor Mario Cuomo's in his last year in office, got the legislature to approve a new education initiative called "21st Century Schools." The program was well-intentioned. Using a request-for-proposals (RFP) process, the program was designed to give existing district schools greater autonomy from state regulations in exchange for accountability for improved results. Sound familiar?
The program was managed by the state Education Department and overseen by an unpaid board created as part of the statute, with a mix of appointees by the Governor and legislative leaders. The program barely got off the ground and soon fizzled during Gov. Pataki's first term.
I served as one of Gov. Pataki's appointees to the board. The board included at least one teacher union official who was outspoken and naturally looked out for NYSUT's interests. He meticulously picked apart the development of the request for proposals for district schools to apply to become "21st Century Schools." Dozens of schools and districts across the state showed initial interest in applying to the program. A handful of schools eventually became "21st Century Schools" - the exact number I do not recall, and probably no one else does either.
I cannot remember the rest of this failed experiment, because it was so forgettable and a waste of everyone's time. For all the promise of autonomy and regulatory freedom, the reality was much the same, but for added paperwork and bureaucracy. The 21st Century Schools Board only met a few times in 1996 and soon stopped meeting altogether as the whole program deservedly withered on the vine.
Resurrecting a Program Flop - Better to Leave in the Grave
The charter RFP proposal now floating around in the legislature reeks of an attempt to resurrect the "21st Century Schools" concept from the policy graveyard where it belongs. Any attempt to turn charter schools into that program--with SED administering an eerily similar RFP process--will result in the same failure.
Which I suspect is exactly the point of its proponents.
for The Chalkboard
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