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Opinion

EDITORIALS: Albany lawmakers can't help themselves

Those who suspect that New York's state government is beyond repair need only look at this week's vote on charter schools for confirmation.

Tuesday morning saw Gov. David A. Paterson's announcement that school aid must be reduced by $1.1 billion next year to balance the state budget. That afternoon held a deadline for New York's chance to win $700 million in federal funding, which is being granted to states leading the way in education reform.

But the State Legislature failed to consider a bill that would have improved New York's shot at the Race to the Top money. And that's not all. Only two votes blocked lawmakers from passing a second bill, riddled with poison pills to quash charter schools and kill all hope for federal funds.

Two Democrats, Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. of the Bronx and Sen. Craig Johnson of Port Washington, stood with Republicans and stood up to political pressure from their colleagues and teachers unions. The New York State United Teachers resorted to telephoning voters in Johnson's district to twist his arm.

Yet the two did the right thing. The bill they blocked would have stripped parents' rights to petition for charters, which have given new hope to poor and minority communities that have been denied better schooling for generations.

The Assembly and the rest of the Senate Democrats were willing to toss away $700 million to stay in NYSUT's good graces. That's how broken Albany is. hN

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