Paterson Urges Action on 'Race to the Top'
January 12th, 2010

Gov. David Paterson is urging the legislature to enact legislation that would help New York qualify for federal Race to the Top education funding.

The deadline for the state to apply for Race to the Top funds, and qualify for up to $700 million in federal education reform grants, is Jan. 19 and the legislature is not scheduled to be back in Albany until that date.

The Times Union reports that unions representing teachers are pushing against passing legislation that would increase the state’s cap on charter schools. Some say increasing the cap will increase the state’s chances of receiving federal funding.

Dan Weiller, spokesman for Speaker Sheldon Silver, said that as of this moment the Assembly is in conference “discussing the Race to the Top issue.”

*Update: “The Senate is working to make sure New York is in the best position in the race to top,” said Austin Shafran, spokesman for the senate majority conference. He said negotiations with the Assembly are ongoing.

Not surprisingly one seems particularly sure any legislation will be voted on before the deadline.

Here is a letter Paterson sent to the legislature urging their action:
January 12, 2010

Dear Members of the Legislature,

The first round deadline in the Race to the Top competition is upon us. It is incumbent upon us as lawmakers to take any and all action necessary to ensure that we are successful in this process that would reap up to $700 million in funds for education. In order for New York to compete for maximum Race to the Top funds, I introduced a bill (Governors Program Bill #214) to address minor provisions of New York law which, if not amended, would negatively impact our application.

I have spoken with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and federal officials about New Yorks eligibility for Race to the Top funds and the specific steps we need to take to be competitive in this process. I am working with the Regents and the State Education Department to create a highly competitive application for the January 19 deadline. The enactment of my proposed legislation will ensure that New York State is competitive for the funding. This is not a race about being eligible for funds, but scoring high enough to receive the top federal school aid amounts in Round one.

My proposed bill should be passed this week so the application can be finalized, reviewed and submitted by the January 19 application deadline. The legislation:

o Amends current legislation to change the sunset date from July 1, 2010 to January 15, 2010 for tenure determinations (up to 28 points — 6% of the total number of points in the application);
o Eliminates the Charter School Cap and allows the Dormitory Authority to finance charter school capital funding for approved charter schools (up to 16 points — 3% of the total number of points in the application);
o Allows the Regents to appoint a temporary receiver to address chronically under-performing schools (10 points — 2% of the total number of points in the application).

The combined score for these initiatives would make New York competitive so it can receive top funding in Round one of the Race to the Top competition.

Our children, our schools and the economy of the State of New York cannot afford to wait for the sunset of the student performance data use law. Even though we believe our law does not make us ineligible for the grant, failure to repeal the law could cost us points in our application. Advancing the sunset would keep us competitive in this Race. The Obama administration singled out three states, including New York, for having limitations on the use of student data. The two other states, California and Wisconsin have already removed their teacher/student performance firewall. We should not ignore this provision that could limit the maximum score attainable in Round one.

With respect to the charter school cap, the Race to the Top Fund will penalize states that limit the number of charter schools. The State Education Department estimates that based on the number of public schools any raise to the current cap would need to be significant, up to at least 455. In order to score the maximum amount of points in this section, a cap must at least be equivalent to 10 percent of the number of public schools. My Program Bill would eliminate the cap, again ensuring the highest achievable points from the Race to the Top Fund.

Finally, this Program Bill would enhance our application score by providing charter schools with access to Dormitory Authority Financing. It also enhances our application by allowing the Regents to appoint a temporary receiver to address chronically under-performing schools. The Race to the Top Fund provides 10 points (2% of the total) for, intervening in the lowest achieving schools. While the State Education Department is currently empowered to take-over poorly performing schools, receivership provides a more streamlined option and another tool for the Department.

We have been offered a rare opportunity to receive significant federal funding for our schools and our children when we need it most. These changes to State law significantly improve New Yorks chances for enhanced aid to education when we need it most. Please join me – not just to make us more than eligible for these funds – but to begin our mission to reestablish New York as a leader in education reform.

Very Truly Yours,

David A. Paterson

By on January 12, 2010, 4:34 pm
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