25 Aug NY Wins $696M in Federal Education Grant (NY)August 25, 2010
By: Michael GormleySource: The Associated Press
New York won a $696 million federal grant yesterday, after it agreed to add more charter schools, use student test scores to help evaluate teachers and adopt other measures so strongly opposed that they doomed its first application.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer told The Associated Press that New York’s win shows that states making “hard choices” painful to politicians and special interests will be rewarded by the federal government. Failure to recognize New York, he argued to the Obama administration, would have had a “chilling effect” on school reform nationwide.
State Education Commissioner David Steiner said a little more than half the funds will go directly to school districts. The grant will in part create a single, statewide “world class” curriculum for use by every public school, which had been opposed by schools. There will also be “real time” data on student performance and a new system to eval uate teachers and principals, including a process to fire those who can’t or refuse to improve.
New York City “really can use these funds to do what we’ve been doing — improving the educational system here and giving our kids the things that they need to compete in the society that they’re going to live in,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“Getting the money is critical,” said city Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. “Using the money wisely is even more critical.”
Gov. David Paterson said the money coming during tough fiscal times “will provide a foundation of what will be educational performance that will lead to academic success … and the leaders of tomorrow.” The fiscal crisis resulted in a 5 percent or $1.4 billion cut in state school aid.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver called the award a “critical victory” made possible in part by union support.
“There’s no question about it, part of the incentive that smoothed the way was the possibility of getting the $700 million award,” Silver said in an interview. “We worked with the mayor to come up with a reasonable assurance of parental voices in the traditional public schools in order to achieve the increase in the number of charter schools.”
Paterson said charter school advocates and teachers’ unions, usually at odds, worked together to make the application the second strongest among states in the second round. New York’s score increased to 464, from 408 in the first round. New York scored the second highest among 10 states, behind Massachusetts.
New York’s score from the first round earlier this year left New York 15th out of 16 states that applied and wouldn’t have been enough to get a grant this round either, according to a tall y from the U.S. Education Department.
B. Jason Brooks, director of research and communications at the Foundation for Education Reform & Accountability, warned schools which have been resistant to change must now embrace the reforms tied to the grant “and abandon the status quo.”
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, who was part of New York’s team that defended the application in Washington, said the new data system will collect useful information to help schools improve, rather for use as a “gotcha” system to justify punishment.
Richard C. Iannuzzi, president of the New York State United Teachers union, called it a wake-up call after the first application failed and shows “unions play a positive role in these partnerships built around what’s fair for teachers and good for kids.”
Bill Phillips of the New York Charter Schools Association warned the Legislature can’t now “break faith by undermining its charter cap increase by imposing a ruthless and disproportionate cut in charter school funding.”