May 26, 2010
There won’t be a deal to allow more charter schools in New York today, either, our sources on the train back from Albany report.
That leaves tomorrow and Friday for lawmakers to figure out a way to boost the state’s chances in the Race to the Top competition — without throwing away their concerns with charter schools. The final deadline for submitting an application is June 1, next Tuesday. Lawmakers have Monday off for Memorial Day.
As the deadline nears, a standoff is developing between the state Senate and the Assembly. Each chamber has passed its own legislation tied to Race to the Top: The state Senate already passed a bill that would raise the cap on charter schools to 460 from 200. And yesterday the Assembly passed legislation to build a new teacher evaluation system.
The Senate could easily sign on to the teacher evaluation legislation and make it law. But we’re hearing that some senators might not sign off so easily. The idea is to prevent Assembly members from taking an easy way out by passing a teacher evaluation bill, but no new charter school laws. Then the Assembly could say something like, “Well, we did at least one thing to help our state’s schools win the contest!”
To prevent that, some senators, we hear, might threaten to treat the two bills as a package. They’ll either pass the charter cap and teacher evaluation along with the Assembly, or they’ll do nothing at all.
That would make the Assembly members look like the ones standing between New York children and the $700 million the state could win in the federal competition. Which is not what Assembly members want. This, at least, is the calculation charter school supporters are making.
“If it is the state Assembly that the finger is pointed at for failing to pass a bill, it would be a public relations disaster,” Assemblyman Sam Hoyt of Buffalo, a staunch charter school supporter, told me today. “And you know at a time when we’re all facing tough elections, there’s already an anti-incumbent, anti-government mood … I think that all involved know that if it doesn’t get done and the Assembly is blamed, it’s not going to look good for our house or our conference.”