The legislation (S.6468/A.9558) backed by the unions for New York's federal Race to the Top application was on track to be passed by both houses of the legislature. Instead, it was blocked in the Senate by two Democratic senators: Craig Johnson from Long Island and Ruben Diaz, Sr. from the Bronx. They, together with the Senate Republicans led by Sen. Dean Skelos, refused to join what was a masquerade party trying to perpetrate a fraud of an education reform bill. Today's Daily News editorial captures this well.
Courage, integrity and principles are in short supply in the legislature. This was especially true yesterday among many supposed charter school supporters--and you know who you are--who cravenly folded on us like a K-Mart suit. By contrast, those legislators that stood up against this phantom reform bill displayed all three virtues and refused to be bought or bullied - a rare combination in the Albany statehouse.
Senators Johnson and Diaz, along with their GOP colleagues, sought a bipartisan solution being pushed by Gov. Paterson to enact a clean charter cap lift along with codifying existing accountability practices required of charter schools (S.6470). This was never seriously considered by either the Senate or Assembly leadership, each doing the bidding of the New York State United Teachers and their largest locals, the UFT in New York City and the BTF in Buffalo -- both of which loathe the existence of charter schools.
The symbiotic relationship between legislators and the teacher unions is well described here in today's New York Post by its veteran state editor, Fred Dicker.
Baleful Consequences to Charter Schools
Had this bill passed, the result would have been to weaken New York's charter school statute beyond recognition with an overflow of poison pills. For example, approval, oversight and renewal of charter schools would have been concentrated in the Board of Regents - something the Assembly Majority--which opposes charters and appoints the Regents--had sought for 12 years. The SUNY Board of Trustees, recognized nationally as one of the most effective charter authorizers, would have become of carcass of its current self. In addition, new charter schools would have been subject to a centralized RFP process controlled mostly by the state Education Department, which reports to the Regents, with vague input by SUNY. No other state has such a gate-keeping process for new charters, which is a stealthy, restrictive means designed to put a virtual end to new chartering.
There was much more to this farcical legislation, including a mandate to impose more expensive building costs on charter schools - without any building aid; never mind that federal Race to the Top guidance awards points for providing facilities aid to charter schools.
School Boards Assoc. Bill Support Says It All
Lest anyone doubt the legislative legerdemain in this bill, pretending to raise the charter cap, look no further than its endorsement by the New York State School Boards Association. NYSSBA from the beginning has opposed charter schools and has never supported a pro-charter school measure. Yet, this organization, after its 12-year campaign of disdain and deceit against charter schools, supported this sham bill. Why? Because it suddenly repented and wanted more charter schools? Uh, no. Rather, the School Boards Association read and understood this bill the same way charter school advocates did.
This is hardly the end of this struggle. The education establishment and its powerful legislative allies will continue to fight us. Charter schools must fight back, as these relentless charter opponents will continue in termination mode.
for The Chalkboard
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