August 30, 2010

Capitol Briefing: Education Secretary Duncan praises New York's teamwork in Race to the Top

Author: Clarisse Butler Banks
Source:  NYSUT Newswire
Caption: On hand this morning on the capitol; NYS Commissioner of Education David Steiner; Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer; NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi; Congressman Scott Muphy; U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; Congressman Paul Tonko; Gov. David Paterson; UFT President Michael Mulgrew; Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi joined government and union leaders at the capitol Monday to celebrate the state's $700 million Race to the Top victory, saying the teamwork shown throughout the application process is a result of the shared belief that "every child deserves a highly effective teacher standing in front of them."

Iannuzzi was part of a press event welcoming U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who made Albany the second stop of his Courage in the Classroom back-to-school bus tour. Duncan praised the state - and everyone involved in the application process - for coming together and making difficult decisions.

"New York has always been a leader in school reform," Duncan said, noting that the collaboration between teacher union leaders and school administrators means 96 percent of students across the state are part of the state's winning application.

"This is not a gift," Duncan said. "This is something New York has absolutely earned."

Duncan said the state's Phase 2 application displayed "breathtaking courage" and he praised the capacity of the leaders involved in the application. He noted the state's overall application was stronger and said the state's success could not be attributed to merely raising the cap on charter schools. "There are probably 20 different things the state did," Duncan said. "We've said from day one that good charter schools are part of the solution and bad charter schools are part of the problem. We need more high-performing schools" whether they are charter or regular public schools.

Gov. David Paterson said the award recognizes the dedication education professionals bring to the job.

"In New York we are deeply proud of our pedagogic community," Paterson said. "The most important job is in any way preparing today's youth" for the future.

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers in New York City, NYSUT's largest local, said teachers are ready for the challenges - and the next steps.

"If we are going to change the education system we have to be bold. Teachers have said we want more than just test prep. That's what Race to the Top is allowing us to do," he said.

Duncan later joined union leaders, educators and elected officials at NYSUT headquarters in Latham, where the secretary participated in a roundtable discussion.

What they said:

Congressman Paul Tonko noted that the Race to the Top grant makes a significant commitment to science and technology and will address the "narrowing of the wedge of engineers and scientists graduating from our colleges. No nation can stay leading unless they encourage youth to create, envision and design."

Congressman Scott Murphy: As a father of three children in public school, the son of a teacher and the spouse of a school board member, Murphy "is very proud to have seen what we had to do to come together." He said the increased standards agreed to in the application are critical and New York is a "great model."

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said the RTTT grant will help fuel the state's efforts toward meeting the 21st century 3 Rs - reform + resources = results. "I'm delighted and proud to have an education secretary who believes that education is a civil right. This federal program was a catalyst that brought us together as a pit crew within Race to the Top."

Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer, chair of the Senate Education Committee: "The country that will have the best economy in the future will be the one that best educates its children. We're looking at a new curriculum, new testing and 260 additional charter schools … now the task is to make sure we involve parents."

Education Commissioner David Steiner: "Secretary Duncan, you have given us a deep responsibility and a set of tools … we will not let down those kids." Steiner thanked Assembly Education Chair Cathy Nolan and Sen. Oppenheimer for their hard work and noted that the partnership with NYSUT was critical. "Ours is a comprehensive reform agenda. We are committed to the data that teachers and parents need." 

New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein: "This was truly a team effort … everybody came together. But despite the progress made," noted Klein, "there is a long way to go for our school children."