NY wins $696M federal education grant

ALBANY - (AP) - New York on Tuesday won a $696 millionfederal grant after it agreed to add more charter schools, usestudent test scores to help evaluate teachers and adopt othermeasures so strongly opposed that they doomed its firstapplication.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer told The Associated Press that NewYork's win shows that states making "hard choices" painful topoliticians and special interests will be rewarded by the federalgovernment. Failure to recognize New York, he argued to the Obamaadministration, would have had a "chilling effect" on schoolreform nationwide.

State Education Commissioner David Steiner said a little morethan half the funds will go directly to school districts. The grantwill in part create a single, statewide "world class" curriculumfor use by every public school, which had been opposed by schools.There will also be "real time" data on student performance and anew system to evaluate teachers and principals including a processto fire those who can't or refuse to improve.

New York City "really can use these funds to do what we've beendoing - improving the educational system here and giving our kidsthe things that they need to compete in the society that they'regoing to live in," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

"Getting the money is critical," said city Schools ChancellorJoel Klein. "Using the money wisely is even more critical."

Gov. David Paterson said the money coming during tough fiscaltimes "will provide a foundation of what will be educationalperformance that will lead to academic success ... and the leadersof tomorrow." The fiscal crisis resulted in a 5 percent or $1.4billion cut in state school aid.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver called the award a "criticalvictory" made possible in part by union support.

"There's no question about it, part of the incentive thatsmoothed the way was the possibility of getting the $700 millionaward," Silver said in an interview. "We worked with the mayor tocome up with a reasonable assurance of parental voices in thetraditional public schools in order to achieve the increase in thenumber of charter schools."

Paterson said charter school advocates and teachers' unions,usually at odds, worked together to make the application the secondstrongest among states in the second round. New York's scoreincreased to 464, from 408 in the first round. New York scored thesecond highest among 10 states, behind Massachusetts.

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