The state legislature failed to vote on a proposal to raise the state’s cap on charter schools today as the deadline for the federal Race to the Top competition came and went.
This meant that the state submitted its application for the federal grant program today with a nearly maxed-out cap of 200 charter schools still intact. The competition favors states without restrictions on the growth of charters.
There is much more to the content of the state’s application than the charter school dust-up. Charter school advocates and opponents argue over how much the failure to raise the cap will matter for New York’s bid for up to $700 million of the stimulus fund. Charter supporters point to statements from federal officials that suggest every point will matter in the competition, while others downplay the cap’s importance in the grand scheme of the competition.
Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch emphasized today that the application also includes an overhaul of teacher training, certification and the way school districts collect and track student data.
“I believe the application is eloquent and articulate and sets out a bold reform agenda,” she said. “I want to talk about what’s in this application. I want people to understand how broad it is.”
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We haven’t yet seen New York’s full plan, which likely runs hundreds of pages long. But the agenda will be subject to intense scrutiny in coming months as observers take up Tisch’s call.
If New York’s plan does not make the cut for the first round of Race to the Top awards, renewed attention will also likely be focused on what changes the state might make in time for the second round deadline in June. States that do not make the first cut for grants will receive detailed feedback on how they can improve their proposals from federal education officials, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said today.
And there’s no sign that Mayor Michael Bloomberg intends to abandon his push for legislative changes that could change the way teachers are hired, fired and evaluated.
As much as charter advocates want to push bills raising the cap and the mayor wants reforms, however, all attention for the immediate future will be on the budget. Charter supporters will have to devote most of their energy to fighting the governor’s plan to freeze the amount of money charter schools receive per student.
In comments on the Obama administration’s announcement today of a $1.35 billion extension of Race to the Top, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten reminded observers that much more is yet to come.
“While the president’s intention to extend Race to the Top demonstrates his commitment to making public education a national priority, all we know today about how well the program will work is that many states have submitted applications,” Weingarten said.
Here’s our live-blog of the debate in Albany over the charter cap lift.
And here’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor David Paterson’s joint statement in response to the day’s outcome:
JOINT STATEMENT FROM MAYOR MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG AND GOVERNOR DAVID A. PATERSON ON FAILURE TO BRING GOVERNOR’S BILL TO RAISE THE CAP ON CHARTER SCHOOLS TO THE FLOOR OF THE LEGISLATURE
“This afternoon New York State’s Race to the Top application was filed with the federal government.
“Today is a sad day for the children of New York, for the tens of thousands of students on wait lists for charter schools and for the thousands more who need and deserve better educational choices. We are disappointed that we may now miss out on an opportunity to receive unprecedented federal funding for our schools and our children. It is unthinkable that after being advised to make specific changes to enhance our application, the Legislative Leaders could not come to an agreement on legislation that would have significantly increased our competitiveness.
“Filing this application is in the best interest of New York’s 3 million schoolchildren and the people of New York. We have been offered a rare opportunity to receive unprecedented federal funding for our schools and our children when we need it most. As we have said throughout this process, our application is strong. But given the competitive nature of this selection process, we believe that the State Legislature should have joined our efforts to do everything in our power to ensure that New York is a true competitor for Race to the Top grants. It is incumbent upon us as lawmakers to take any and all action necessary to succeed in a process that would reap up to $700 million in funds for education.
“On behalf of the City and the State, we want to thank Senator Dean Skelos for his efforts to pass this important legislation. In addition, we would like to thank Senators Craig Johnson, Ruben Diaz Sr., and members of the Senate Republican Conference, Assembly members Sam Hoyt and Brian Kolb and members of the Assembly Republican Conference and the other legislators who supported the Governor’s legislation which offered our State the greatest opportunity to receive Round 1 Race to the Top funding. Since introducing that bill on January 7th, the Governor met on several occasions with the Legislative Leaders, there were numerous staff meetings and the Governor’s office was open to negotiations. The Governor revised the legislation to reflect many of the concerns raised by the Leaders and their members. But, those efforts were not met halfway by our Legislative Leaders. It was not until the 11th hour that Legislative Leaders, without notice or negotiation, submitted their own bill on the Race to the Top competition – a bill that would ultimately have undermined the improvement that the Race to the Top grants intend to achieve.
“Race to the Top provides an unprecedented opportunity to reform our schools and challenge an educational status quo that is failing too many children. President Obama and Congress have provided significant financial support for school reform. This is a chance to change our schools and to accelerate student achievement, and we will continue to do everything in our power to ensure that we are more than eligible to receive as much federal funding as possible as this process continues.”