Two thousand plus members of the New York State United Teachers were gathered at their annual convention on Friday when, late in the afternoon, their president, Richard Ianuzzi stepped up to the podium and announced that a “raise the charter cap” bill, without any of the “transparency” protections had been introduced in the NYS Senate and might very well pass when the senators returned on Monday. Gotham Schools posted a story with the text of the bill and an analysis (see here).
The union sprang into action: a contact your State Senator phone number flashed across the screen, text messages popped up on cell phones and Ianuzzi warned that any senator supporting the bill would face the wrath of the union at their August endorsement conference. The audience had just listened to a old-fashioned, passionate speech by the President of the United Mine Workers, reviling coal company operators, eulogizing the death of the 29 West Virginia miners, I haven’t heard a speech like this in years! see video here
Early in this year’s legislative session both leaders, Speaker Shelly Silver in the Assembly (dems control 109-41) and Majority Leader John Sampson (32 dems and 30 repubs) sponsored a raise the cap bill that required “fairness” for special education and ELL youngsters and complete transparency of financial operations. When the State Comptroller attempted to audit charter schools their association went to court and the court ruled that the statute did not give the Comptroller auditing authority. Three democrats in the Senate (Smith, Diaz and Craig Johnson from Long Island) voted against the bill, and it failed.
If Sampson, as expected, allows the just-introduced raise the cap bill on the floor, and the same three democrats support the bill, it will pass.
In addition to the State teacher union Class Size Matters is attempting to pressure electeds to reject the bill (see online petition here)
The legislature has a long history of what are called “one-house bills.”
The democrat-controlled Assembly passes a bill that never sees the light of day in the Senate, and, the previously Republican-controlled Senate does likewise.
For forty years the Republicans controlled the Senate. In 2008 Democrats rode Obama coat tails and eked out a 32-30 majority, only to immediately fall into bitter internal conflicts. With all the democratic votes needed to pass a bill the “three Amigos,” Monserrate, Espada and Diaz, plus Carl Kruger, held the Democratic caucus hostage. Eventually a “deal” was worked out, however, Sampson doesn’t have the clout to gather up all 32 votes on each and every issue.
The current budget is more than a month late because a handful of suburban democrats refuse to support a sugar tax on beverages and the suspension of the STAR exemption, a real estate tax rebate, fearing it will jeopardize their re-election.
Will the passage of the raise the cap without transparency bill in the State Senate and the already passed raise the cap bill in the Assembly set the stage for a compromise, or, is the passage of one-house bills business as usual, and, the issue will slide off the agenda of leadership in both houses?
The urgency of the June 1 deadline for the submission of phase 2 of Race to the Top is approaching is not as intense, especially when the phase 1 was so sharply criticized. The State has just received 300 million dollars in State Incentive Grant (SIG) dollars from the feds and these dollars will begin to flow to the “persistently lowest achieving schools” next year.
The final date for applying for the next round of charter schools (opening 9/12) is May 5th with winners announced in early June.
If business as usual prevails, and the one-house bills languish this could be the last announcement of new charter schools.
The State Charter School Association may bask in the passage of their Senate bill, they may have been better served to negotiate a mutually acceptable bill.
And, oh yes, the absence of a State budget could very well result in massive layoffs.
The democratic “victory” in the 2008 State looks more and more like a disaster for the democrats and their supporters. Where is Joe Bruno when we need him?