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Tisch parts ways with Bloomberg on common standards, sort of

Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch disagreed with Mayor Bloomberg’s education proposals in the most agreeable way possible tonight, saying that the mayor’s call for New York to accept common national curriculum standards doesn’t go far enough.

In a speech in Washington, D.C., last week, Bloomberg called on Tisch and Steiner to ratify the common standards “as soon as possible and without material alteration.”

“As much as I respect the mayor, I have to disagree with him,” Tisch said, saying that instead, New York should adopt standards that are tougher than the national bar. “We will reserve the right to increase the rigor of the standards and be at the top of the heap and not at the bottom of the heap,” she said.

Tisch made the comment alongside state education commissioner David Steiner on a panel at Columbia University’s Teachers College. The two were there to discuss the state’s education agenda and its bid for the competitive Race to the Top fund. And while Tisch did not address Bloomberg’s other proposals to make the state more attractive to federal grantmakers, she said that the state is in a strongly competitive position now.

Tisch and Steiner also emphasized that their education plans are being developed independently of the Obama administration, and the two agendas may not entirely align.

One significant difference of opinion between federal and state priorities is in regard to the charter cap. The Obama administration has encouraged states to shed their caps. Tisch and Steiner stated again tonight, as they have before, that the cap encourages competition so that only the highest quality charters may open.

“We have not tailored our sails to the winds of Race to the Top,” Steiner said. “Where there is overlap — and there is considerable overlap — we welcome it.”

But pushing an agenda that differs significantly from federal priorities might be easier said than done in a fiscal climate that Steiner acknowledged was like a “tsunami.”

Steiner said that the state education department has already sustained an 11 percent budget cut, and this year school districts relied on $700 million in stimulus support that likely will not come again next year.

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