John Legend Miffed NY State Passed on Race to the Top

Posted by Nikhil Swaminathan

john-legend-morning-joeDuring last night's State of the Union, Barack Obama invoked his Race to the Top competition, saying "The idea here is simple: Instead of rewarding failure, we only reward success. Instead of funding the status quo, we only invest in reform."Well, in order to succeed, you have to play the game. That's something the state of New York failed to do last week, when it missed the deadline to apply for the first round of Race to the Top funds. The state could have secured up to $700 million for education efforts, but squabbles over charter schools in Albany (which has set a new low for silly state legislatures over the last year) halted the process.Among those who were aghast at the state's superior level of dysfunction was musician John Legend, who works closely with the Harlem Village Academies, a group of charter schools in Manhattan's historically black neighborhood. On MLK day, he wrote on The Huffington Post, "I consider the education 'achievement gap' between those students who are receiving a quality education and those who are not the civil rights issue of our time."Last week, he and Harlem Village Academies CEO Deborah Kenny appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe to talk about Albany missing the Race to the Top deadline. And Joe Scarborough was only too happy to rile them up. (Full video below; transcribed part begins at 2:50.)

JS: Why would New York legislators try to kill charter schools like this and say, tell Barack Obama to go to hell and keep his $700 million.JL [as Scarborough fires up this invective, Legend shoots Kenny a priceless look]: "We don't need your money. We like the status quo as it is." That's what the New York legislature said last night.JS: Why, Deborah? Why? Explain.DK: God only knows. We can't figure it out.JS: Come on, It's the teachers union. Let's just admit it. Why don't we just tell the truth here? The teachers union are scared of schools in Harlem, like yours, like the one that John's a part of. John, that's it, isn't it? Because it's competition. Because they'r getting it right.JL: It's not just competition, it's accountability. It's holding schools and teachers accountable for the results of their students. Which should be the only measure that we care about: How are our students progressing? And if they're not making progress, then we have to do something to shake the formula up.