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Hoyt's education reform bill reaches far beyond charter cap

Much of the attention paid to Assemblyman Sam Hoyt’s proposed changes to state education law has focused on its immediate repeal of the charter school cap. But the legislation, introduced in both houses of the state legislature yesterday, seeks much broader changes.

Hoyt told GothamSchools that his proposed law is a kind of “kitchen-sink bill” intended to bring state law into line with the proposed federal Race to the Top regulations.

“I introduced the bill to get the discussion started about the need to change the paradigm in the state of New York and the need to compete on a national scale,” he said.

He said that he aimed high to make it likely that a powerful law could emerge from the legislative negotiation process.

In addition to removing the charter cap, Hoyt’s bill would allow student test scores to be factored into teacher evaluations, increase the number of years before a teacher can earn tenure, and let state funds be used to pay for charter school facilities. (The full list of proposed changes is at the end of this post.)

State Senator Jeffrey Klein, a long-time supporter of charter schools who signed on this week as Senate sponsor of the bill, said he believed all of the various changes were valuable as a package. “I certainly went into this with my eyes wide open,” he said. “I think everything here will enhance our education system.”

Conflict over some of the proposals may be inevitable. The ban on linking student data to teacher tenure decisions, for example, was inserted into the state budget in the spring of 2008 as a response to protests from the city’s teachers union over moves to evaluate teachers using student test scores.

But Klein expressed confidence that the proposals would garner support from across the political spectrum. “I have the utmost respect for teachers and for unions,” he said. “At the same time, I think this legislation is pro-student and not anti-teacher.”

Klein said that the state legislature was unlikely to address the bill during next month’s special session and will wait instead until it reconvenes in January. But both he and Hoyt emphasized that the competition for federal Race to the Top funds gives the legislation urgency.

Last week, Gov. David Paterson said that he did not plan to push for the elimination of the state’s charter school cap, saying that New York state is eligible for the funds without any legislative changes.

“I respectfully disagree with him,” said Hoyt, adding that the state needed to go beyond being merely eligible and instead should be on the forefront of enacting the reforms currently being pushed by the Obama administration.

“We should be in a position to get that money, and all of it,” Klein said. “Why would we gamble with not being as competitive as we can be?”

Hoyt and Klein’s bill would cause the following changes in state education law:

  • Remove the ban on using student test data as a factor in teacher tenure decisions.
  • Extend the length of the school year by a month, starting next school year.
  • Increase the number of years a teacher may be considered for tenure from three to six.
  • Require that teachers have at least a bachelor’s degree in the subject area they teach, and also to pass the subject’s Regents exam.
  • Require the Board of Regents to set state exam proficiency standards at levels analogous to federal NAEP standards.
  • Require the education department to develop a state-wide letter grade system for evaluating schools.
  • Allow charter schools to give admissions preference not just to students residing in the same district as the school, but also to students in neighboring districts.
  • Provide funding to help charter schools pay for facilities and allow charters to teach students of the same grade at different sites.
  • Allow charter schools to run pre-kindergarten programs.
  • Expand routes to alternative certification for teachers.
  • And require the commission of education to publish comprehensive data sets on the results of state tests before the start of the next school year.

Education Reform Act

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