It happened quietly and almost no one noticed that the Democrat-run state Assembly voted last week to approve legislation that will more than double the number of charter schools in the state. This will hopefully help the state secure hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding.
The Queens delegation played a major role in getting this legislation passed, including Assembly members Catherine Nolan and Rory Lancman, David Weprin and Andrew Hevesi. The money is part of President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top program.
First the opposition came from the United Federation of Teachers. The charter schools are not required to hire union teachers. Opponents argue charter schools cherry-pick the best students from the public school system.
These are serious concerns. The new legislation requires charter schools to enroll more English-language learners, children with disabilities and reduced-price lunch program participants and allow the state comptroller to audit the charter schools. The legislation would also set guidelines for the fair allocation of building space.
We welcome any effort to increase the number of charter schools. These schools have done well with results that surpass the city’s public schools. But these schools cannot replace the public education system.
Common Sense in War on Drunk Driving
The Queens courts have taken a high-tech approach in the war on crime that will cost taxpayers little or nothing and probably will save lives. The Queens Treatment Court now uses an ankle bracelet that can tell the court with a high degree of accuracy if a person is abusing alcohol.
This approach to the serious problem of drunken driving makes sense. Putting the drunk driver in Rikers Island is bad for the defendant, his or her family and society. Incarceration for drug or alcohol abuse is both costly and ineffective. The jailed defendants often lose their jobs, making the transition to a law-abiding life when they are released far more difficult.
We trust the Treatment Court will track the effectiveness of the Scram bracelet to make certain it lives up to society’s expectations.