The Race to the Top Application: Charters and Threats, The Confluence of Political Power, Ideology, Education and Realpolitiks.


The Governor threatens: if you don’t pass my charter school bill in the next week New York State will lose $700 million.
The Mayor reassures the Democratic Senate leader,
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, called Mr. Bloomberg, and expressed concern about the reports of a possible Ford bid for the Senate, and asked if the mayor or his top political aides were behind the effort. Mr. Bloomberg, speaking on his cell phone on a drive to an event, reassured Mr. Reid that he was not personally involved in the effort to promote a Ford candidacy,But around the same time that Mr. Bloomberg was distancing himself from the Ford effort, two of his top campaign strategists met with Mr. Ford, … for lunch at the Harvard Club in Manhattan.
Just as the Mayor is dancing, with feet in all political camps, with, let us say, a rather loose interpretation of truth and veracity, the Governor follows suit.
The Race to the Top application is competitive, each application is scored on a 500 point scale, the state charter school cap provision could deprive the application of up to eight points (see UFT Prez Mulgrew discuss here), only1.6 percent of the total, however, the Governor fails to address other parts of the application that contain many, many more points and the failure to adequately address these sections clearly places the application at risk.
Use support from a broad group of stakeholders to better implement its plan, as evidenced by the strength of statements or actions from (10 points),
(A) The State’s teacher and principals, which includes the State’s teachers’ unions
How can the “State teacher union” sign/support an application that it has not seen? Shouldn’t the Governor, who is responsible for the plan post it on his web site and ask for comment? Doesn’t his failure to do so endanger the application and indicate irresponsibility on his part?
Another section deals specifically with teacher and principal evaluation systems,
Design and implement rigorous, transparent, and fair evaluation systems for teachers and principals that (a) differentiate effectiveness using multiple rating categories that take into account data on student growth as a significant factor, (b) are designed and developed with teacher and principal involvement (15 points)
Doesn’t the Chancellor violate this section when he calls for the “layoff” of teachers in the ATR pool without any “transparent and fair evaluation system”?
Have teachers, or their union, been involved in the “design and development” of an evaluation system? I think not. Doesn’t the failure of the Governor to require the Department to work together with the union jeopardize the application?
We are told that the principal is the Chief Executive Officer, the CEO of the school, and the principal constructs the educational program for the school.  Yet the application requires schools district to,
provide effective, data-informed professional development, coaching, induction and common planning and collaborative time to teachers and principals, where appropriate ongoing and job embedded.
Is sitting in an auditorium once a month and listening to the pronouncements of a principal, or the morning meeting announcements over the loud speaker what is envisioned in the application?
Doesn’t the application require the Governor to order the Commissioner to issue regulations that all schools must embed “common planning and collaborative time to teachers …” in their “ongoing” professional development?
A major section of the application requires states to address low achieving schools,
State … Supports LEAs in turning around these (low achieving) schools by implementing one of the four school intervention models: turnaround model, restart model, school closure or transformation model …
Was the State involved in “turning around” low achieving New York City schools? Why has the Department been allowed to ignore the other suggested models and only utilize school closure? Will the scorers examine the “collateral damage” to neighborhood schools that has resulted from school closings?  Will the PEP on January 26th require the Department to explore other models supported by the application?
The charter school cap may reduce the point totals in the application, far more significant deficiencies may impede the ability of New York State to win a grant.
Just as the Mayor threatened the legislature in the congestion pricing fight, he offered “carrots” to legislators, changing bus routes, more garbage pickups, inducements to support a deeply unpopular idea. The legislators did not fold and congestion pricing never came to a vote. The Mayor blamed Speaker Silver, and, rumors abound that one of the competitors in the 2008 democratic primary in Silver’s district had behind the scenes Bloomberg support.
Once again the Governor, the Mayor and the Chancellor are threatening the legislature, unless they eliminate the charter school cap, allow student performance data to used in tenure granting decisions, spending public dollars on charter school construction, the application is doomed.
The legislature should make it clear, the Race to the Top application must satisfy all the stakeholders: parent organizations, education advocates, teacher unions as well as school districts and local elected officials.
The January 19th application date is only the first phase, “losers” are able to apply for Phase 2 in June. The lure of dollars must not drive bad education policy.
A Governor who is a leader would sit down with all stakeholders and craft an application that truly represents the interest and concerns of all parties.
Remember: when the powerful say “trust me,” the powerless tend to get pregnant.

Update (1/11/10): The NY Post reports a bill to lift the charter school cap and other changes is in the works, “It’s a good compromise that will meet the White House’s test,” the official said. “It’s a compromise that the teachers union will have some problems with and the charter-school advocates will have some problems with.”

2 responses to “The Race to the Top Application: Charters and Threats, The Confluence of Political Power, Ideology, Education and Realpolitiks.

  1. I have to add this comment because of your last statement.

    The “labor” pains are terrible! Protection is definitely needed here.


  2. The NYS Ed. Dept. is documentably incompetent to spearhead school reform efforts. It has the legal authority to operate exactly one district – the Roosevelt Union Free School District, in Nassau County. After years of NYSED close scrutiny and supervision, the district was heading into bankruptcy and all of its schools were failing abysmally. NYSED got the authority to actually operate the district. And what do we have now?

    NYSED is going to take the district’s high school away from it and appoint an outside board to operate it because the board NYSED appointed, along with the superintendent it appointed, couldn’t cut the mustard. The district is headed into bankruptcy unless the Legislature keeps plowing millions in additional appropriations in. The NYS Comptroller’s quarterly financial reports and audits say the district’s leadership (NYSED-appointed, of course) can’t keep books and records, and do budgets, competently. The Securities and Exchange Commission has a fat file on NYSED’s grossly illegal Roosevelt financing shenanigans.

    Okay. The bathrooms now have toilet paper. And the computers the district purchased were installed – because a member of the Board of Regents, visiting the district, found the hardware was still in original boxes in a basement, rolled up his sleeves and installed the computers himself.

    And THIS is the outfit that’s asking US DOE for $millions and $millions so it can spearhead failing schools’ turnarounds?

    Did I mention that the US DOE OIG recently issued an audit which basically stated that NYSED cannot competently manage its regular Title 1 and IDEA funds, and won’t be doing any better for its stimulus funds? Or that this OIG finding mirrors prior ones issued both by the US DOE OIG and NYS Comptroller? In fact, there is a history of two decades of audits showing that NYSED can’t be trusted to manage large sums of federal or state monies competently.

    Good money after bad. We need a NYSED turnaround – a complete house cleaning and change in its governance structure – so as to not let its usual smoke and mirrors routines make everyone forget its well-documented history of abysmal, and incredibly expensive, mismanagement and failure … at best.


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