By lifting its cap on charter schools and allowing test score gains to be considered in teacher evaluations, New York State could ultimately grab a share of the federal government’s $4 billion in “Race to the Top” funding for educational improvement.   Unfortunately, Governor Paterson is doing nothing to make that possible, as Tom Carroll of the Foundation for Educational Reform and Accountability points out in today’s New York Post.

Assemblyman Sam Hoyt( D-Buffalo) seemed to have moved the ball on this last week by proposing a strong starting package of educational reforms, including repeal of the charter cap and elimination of the stattutory “firewall” betwene pupil performance measures and teacher evaluations, aimed at qualifying New York for added federal funding.  Carroll describeas what happened next:

Hoyt claims that he discussed his package with Paterson, who privately encouraged him to press forward. Yet, once the proposal became public, the governor’s staff said that Paterson had “no position” on Hoyt’s plan, The Post reported.

Paterson’s unwillingness to take a stand on Hoyt’s plan to eliminate the charter cap was especially noteworthy because Paterson himself had called in the past for lifting it. In other words, Paterson now has “no position” on his own position.

When Paterson became governor in March 2008, Joe Williams of Democrats for Education Reform captured the optimism of the moment: “As longtime fans of David Paterson, we are extremely confident that the hard work of providing a quality education for every child in the state will not only continue, but will take on a whole new sense of appropriate urgency.”

Now, 19 months later, I’m not sure Paterson’s “no position” quite reflects a sense of “appropriate urgency.”

But it’s not too late for the governor ot make a difference.  Carroll again:

Following Hoyt’s lead, Paterson should propose lifting restrictions on charter schools, unrestricted use of student data to improve classroom instruction, an overhaul of ineffective teacher-preparation programs, compensation plans that reward excellent teaching and a streamlining of the process for removing bad teachers.

Paterson also should embrace providing needy students with enough time — through longer school days and a longer school year — to get the education they deserve. The hundreds of thousands of children across New York seeking better educational opportunities need a governor who’ll lead — not one who takes “no position” on their future.

About the Author

E.J. McMahon

Edmund J. McMahon is Empire Center's founder and a senior fellow.

Read more by E.J. McMahon

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