A Fake Reform

Charter schools are beacons of hope in dozens of inner-city neighborhoods. They are tremendously popular, so much so that public pressure has convinced Albany to lift an arbitrary cap on the number of charter schools throughout the state. State legislative leaders, often considered allies of the teachers’ union, put together a bill that would double the number of charter schools statewide, from 200 to 400.

Good news? A rare sign of sanity in Albany? Guess again. The charter school bill actually is reactionary, pro-union and anti-innovation. It’s a clumsy attempt to respond to a federal deadline that rewards states for innovations like charters; in reality, it’s a document designed to protect the interests of the United Federation of Teachers with a slew of new restrictions and regulations that would choke the growth of charters.

The bill was scheduled for a vote at press time on Tuesday. At stake is about $700 million, which is what the feds are willing to give New York as part of the “Race to the Top” program designed to encourage educational innovation. Legislative leaders knew that the state couldn’t afford to pass up the federal funds, so they constructed a faulty bill that seemed to encourage the growth of charters, but that restricts their ability to innovate.

The charter expansion bill is yet another example of Albany’s embrace of business as usual. When will lawmakers get the message?