Gov. David Paterson said Monday he wasn't surprised that New York missed out on up to $700 million in federal education grants, but he believes the Legislature can act to give the state a strong entry for the next round of funding.
The Obama administration Monday awarded $600 million dollars to Tennessee and Delaware, based on education reform efforts undertaken in those states. But New York ranked 15th on the list of 16 finalists, winning none of the coveted education dollars in Round 1 of the program.
"Nobody should be surprised," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg , who had led the battle for reforms in New York State's education system. The Obama administration made it clear there were certain prerequisites to win Race to the Top funding, including lifting the cap on charter schools. The State Legislature, however, failed to eliminate the cap.
New York's failure to garner up to 700 million dollars during Round 1 of the grants will make it that much harder to balance this year's State Budget, which clearly will not be passed on time. The deadline is April 1st, but the Legislature left Albany on Friday with no plan to return until after the Passover and Easter holidays.
Critics speculated that the Legislature had bowed to pressure from the powerful United Federation of Teachers. President Michael Mulgrew argued against lifting the cap, insisting that New York could still qualify for Race to the Top without lifting the cap. But throughout the process, Mayor Bloomberg made it clear he disagreed.
During a conference call with reporters on Monday afternoon, Governor David Paterson said some members of the legislature "just deliberately blew off the possibility of receiving this money." Paterson said he always knew that the State was in a weak position to compete. "It was very clear that the Federal Government was sending a message," Paterson said, and urged his counterparts to lift the charter cap immediately.
Recipients in Round 2 will be announced in June but would not receive any funds until September, well after school operating budgets would need to be in place. Paterson also urged the Legislature to take aggressive steps to repeal laws that protect bad teachers from being fired.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, "In the end, our system should be for our children, not for the people that work there. And we are not going to qualify unless the State understands this."