How the Charter School Cap Issue Became the Fulcrum of Presidential and Gubernatorial Politics: Are Top Down National Agendas and Dollars Alienating Parents and Teachers? Does the Charter School/RttT Debacle Presage More Obama Woes?

 
CONFIDENTIAL
TO: David Patterson
FROM: xxxx Political Consulting, Inc
 
Considering your low polling numbers and lack of funding we advise that the only path to the governorship is to run against the legislature, the unions, and the lobbyists. In essence to run as a conservative Republican, a Tea Party Democrat running against the power structure. We expect a backlash in September primaries and in November. You have to run as an outsider, attacking the establishment, you have to become part of the attack on incumbency. Your former enemies must now become your friends
 
* * *
For his twenty years as a State Senator I am sure that David Patterson had no views on charter schools. After all, he was a democrat in a republican controlled house, a “player” on the democratic side, a strong supporter of just the very folk that he is currently attacking. Politics make for strange bedfellows, and, occasionally strange bedfellows make for funny politics.
 
Have you ever said, if I were the manager of the Mets, or, the Director of the Metropolitan Opera, this is what I would do …  Well, Arne Duncan is the Secretary of Education for the next eight years, or, maybe only four, and if the dems don’t respond to the disaster in Massachusetts, only a year.
 
Education is an area of state responsibility and has been since the summer of 1787. Arne is dangling dollars to entice states to allow education policy to be driven from the White House. For whatever reason he has marketed his educational coup as:
 
* the unfettered ability of charter schools to compete with public schools.
 
* easing the ability of schools/school districts to fire tenured “bad” teachers.
 
* use student achievement data to evaluate teachers and drive pay scales.
 
* move from fifty sets of state standards to one set of national standards.
 
* build a data-driven system, data warehouses, and use the data to drive all educational decisions.
 
Just as the health care debate started with high expectations public support has waned, Duncan’s policies never had strong public support, and, he has succeeded in alienating those three million teachers living in every election district across the nation, those very same teachers who played such a crucial role in the election of his boss.
 
The Duncan mantra is embedded in the $4 RttT application (see final rule here and executive summary here)
 
The Charter School Law in NYS has a cap of 200, a decade after the authorization of the law the cap is approaching 200 (99 in NYC and about 65 in the remainder of the State).
 
Charter School supporters see the “dangling dollars” as an opportunity to coerce the State to raise the cap and make other changes in the law. (including Pre-K, allowing for multiple schools under one Board, etc.).
 
Charter School critics, and there are many, see flaws in the decade old law,
 
 In  reviewing  applications,  the charter entity is encouraged to give
  preference to applications that demonstrate the  capability  to  provide
  comprehensive   learning  experiences  to  students  identified  by  the
  applicants as at risk of academic failure.
 
If applications are approved for charter schools that uniformly exclude handicapped and English Language Learners does the issuance of charter comply with the intent of the law?
 
The law requires a consultation process before a charter school is placed in a public school,
 
before  a charter school may be located in part of an existing
  public school building, the charter entity shall provide notice  to  the
  parents  or  guardians  of  the  students  then enrolled in the existing
  school building  and  shall  hold  a  public  hearing  for  purposes  of
  discussing the location of the charter school
 
In spite of the opposition of parents the Department has placed charter schools in public schools creating enormous antipathy toward the charter school.
 
The Charter School advocates raced to their new-found friend, the Governor, who introduced a bill that at first looked like a “slam dunk,” who could turn down $700 million, of course, only six states will be winners in Phase 1, out of 40 applicants, the dollars range from 400 to 700 million, and, the funds are dispensed over four years, for NYC about $50 million a year out of an almost $20 billion budget.
 
The Patterson Bill (here) not only would eliminate the cap it would remove the prohibition, due to expire on June 30th, of using student achievement data as a factor in the granting a teacher tenure.
 
The UFT and a wide range of parents and school advocates had spent many months researching charter school data, listening to parents and analyzing the current law. The result was a detailed report and suggested changes in the law, the report was silent on the cap issue. (see the Report here and Mulgrew’s comments here).
 
The Democratic leaders, Silver in the Assembly and John Sampson in the Senate introduced a bill that addresses many of the issues in the union report (see bill here and video of Patterson-Silver- Sampson press conference here).
 
As the clocked ticked on Tuesday toward the submission time for the proposal the charter school advocates decided that no bill was better than the Silver-Sampson bill.
 
Malcolm Smith, a State Senator, who was deposed from his powerful majority leader position by Sampson, got even. It wasn’t hard, Smith is also the founder of the Merrick Academy, a unionized charter school currently at war with it’s unionized teachers.
 
In a State Senate with a slim 32-30 democratic majority one vote is all you need.
 
Mayor Bloomberg, and what’s left of the print media (Wall Street Journal, Daily News and the NY Post) flailed the union unmercifully.
 
The Silver-Sampson bill and the UFT Report are not a “poison pill” as the charter folks claim. The bill and the Report represents the views of law makers, parents and teachers throughout the city. The bill would remove the veil of fog from charter school operations and allow the public the same level of scrutiny as public schools. The bill would also assure that the purpose of charter schools, to serve at risk children, can be achieved. And, perhaps, as importantly, to repair the animosity that has been created by the Klein administration and some charter operators who have run roughshod over public school parents.
 
Phase 1 winners will be announced in April, the Phase 2 filing date is June with winners announced in September, and, Obama has announced a Phase 3, the ability of school districts to apply directly, however, Phase 3 requires approval in this budget cycle.
 
It is likely that the charter school contra temps will have to wait for the approval of the budget, with many billions in cuts. Then again, it might simply have passed it’s time.
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One response to “How the Charter School Cap Issue Became the Fulcrum of Presidential and Gubernatorial Politics: Are Top Down National Agendas and Dollars Alienating Parents and Teachers? Does the Charter School/RttT Debacle Presage More Obama Woes?

  1. Pingback: Remainders: Rotherham’s new venture and Philly’s new contract | GothamSchools

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