New York has been sprinting toward $700 million in federal funds to improve schools, but there's a remaining hurdle before tomorrow's deadline for Race to the Top applications: Albany politics.
The cash will go to a few select states to lead the way in education reform. But some New York laws could count against it if they aren't changed. The center of the struggle is a proposal to lift the 200-school cap on charter schools - a measure opposed by teacher unions, which rank among New York's most powerful lobbies.
To be sure, the unions are advocating for their interests, and they have softened on the use of test scores to evaluate teachers. But they're also using red-herring tactics, such as spreading the word that charters are opposed to audits by the state comptroller. In truth, the comptroller doesn't have the authority to do so. Unions should allow the charter school experiment to flourish. Many have outperformed local school districts, and when they haven't, state officials have moved in to shut them down.
Lawmakers must move quickly to pass needed legislation. The legislature reconvenes Tuesday morning. The bill currently supported by legislative leaders includes charter killing language that would hurt New York's chance for funding. Washington won't be fooled by this shell game.
This is one race New York's children deserve to win. hN