Charter schoolyard politics

New York has seen much mud-slinging and blame-shifting this week as the charter crowd seeks to explain why the legislature had the chutzpah to complete work on the state budget without raising the statewide charter-school cap from 100 to 150 schools, as urged by both Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Pataki. Democratic legislators, led by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and deeply in the pocket of the teachers' union and other established interests, were dead set against more charter schools. The main statewide charter advocacy group decided to play hardball (like everyone else in Albany) and launched a series of gutsy (if inflammatory) radio and television ads against hostile Assembly members. Silver and his cohorts went ballistic, some of them saying they wouldn't even discuss the charter school issue unless the ads were pulled. This led more accommodating members of the charter movement--if Tories in Thatcher's England, they'd have been termed "wets"--to seek to placate Silver. Had alleged charter allies in the State Senate and governor's office been firmer of backbone, Silver and the union might have been routed. In the event, the budget as passed includes no easing of the charter cap. It does, however, also include (and omit) some items that need further work by the legislature later this year, leaving some future leverage in the Governor's hands. We'll see if he wields it. Gadfly thought the attack ads were marvelous and wishes they'd started earlier and been meaner. For now, however, lots of young New Yorkers who yearn to attend charter schools, and would-be charter operators pining to create superior educational opportunities for them, have been dissed and ditched by their lawmakers.  

"Legislature Deals Setback to Mayor in Declining to Allow More Charter Schools," by Jennifer Medina, New York Times, June 24, 2006

"The wrong way to argue for charter schools," by Frederick M. Hess, New York Daily News, June 26, 2006 

"Last-ditch Effort Set to Lift Cap on Schools," by Jacob Gershman, New York Sun, June 22, 2006

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