-- eliminate the statutory cap on the number of new charter schools in the state (yes, eliminate it, not simply raise the cap);
-- authorize the state Dormitory Authority to provide financing for charter school facilities;
-- authorize the Regents to appoint a "temporary receiver" to takeover chronically low-performing school districts; and
-- repeal on January 15th (moved up from July 1) the ban on using student test scores to make teacher tenure determinations.
The Governor's statement on his legislation is here. Significantly, he's speaking in terms of being "competitive" in the application process. His bill is focused and doable for the state legislature in the limited time remaining before the January 19th deadline (which means a bill would have to be enacted next week).
The New York Charter Schools Association's president, Bill Phillips, issued a statement in support of the Governor's proposal, while also mentioning the importance of adopting a more comprehensive agenda proposed by the Board of Regents to maximize the state's chances for a Race to the Top award.
It also should be noted that eliminating the charter cap would have no change on how quickly charters get approved in New York. The process for getting a charter school from SUNY or the Regents is rigorous and difficult, as it should be -- cap or no cap.
Not Everyone's Pleased With the Governor
Predictably, the teacher unions are not happy with the Governor's bill. Richard Iannuzzi, the president of the New York State United Teachers, comes off piqued, like he's having a bad hair day. He told the Albany Times Union (here) that the charter cap is a "bogus issue" that counts for just four of the 500 points on the federal scoring rubric.
Nice try, Dick, but failure to deal with the cap will cost the state 40 points, or 8 percent of the total, since the failure to have more charter schools makes a moot argument all the other charter points on the rubric.
This is irascible behavior from someone who heads an organization that has most to gain from New York getting $700 million in new education money -- an amount considerably higher than the $146 million in delayed school aid payments that provoked NYSUT's lawsuit against the Governor. Such funding shouldn't be forfeited by failing to expand charter school opportunities.
Can Race to the Top legislation be enacted in a week? Mr. Iannuzzi doesn't think so. "The bottom line here is that nothing of value is going to get done in seven calendar days," he told the Casey Seiler at the Times Union's Capitol bureau. "Nothing of value"? Hey, $700 million is still real money, even in 2010, and we should try real hard for it. If New York fails to pass a strong Race to the Top bill in the next week, it will be a national joke.
The fact is, the state legislature could pass a bill in seven minutes if NYSUT and the UFT stopped kicking against the goads to scuttle charter schools.
History of Charters Distorted
Mr. Iannuzzi didn't stop there. He told a whopper to Liz Benjamin of the Daily Politics blog that the Charter Schools Act was "hastily-written" when it was approved in December 1998.
In fact, the Charter Schools Act was proposed by then-Gov. George Pataki in January 1997, nearly two years before legislative approval. His bill was negotiated with both houses of the legislature during the regular sessions in 1997 and again in 1998. NYSUT and the UFT were very close to the action in both instances and effectively blocked approval. After the November 1998 election, Pataki, newly re-elected, pushed again for the bill using the legislature's desire for a pay raise (after a decade) as leverage.
The Senate passed the Governor's bill in November. NYSUT and UFT saw the inevitable and wisely negotiated some concessions in the Governor's bill, which passed in December. "Hastily-written" charter law? Nope, and Mr. Iannuzzi knows it.
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.