DFER Heroes

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August 7, 2008

Governor David Paterson Earns Praise For His Support of Charter Schools

undefinedFew legislators in the United States have been as brave on education reform as New York Governor David Paterson. From his time representing Harlem in the New York State Senate, to his current position as Governor, Paterson has marked his time in Albany as a bold leader working to revitalize New York's public education system.

In 2003, as a state senator, Paterson stood next to Mayor Michael Bloomberg to announce that charter schools would be allowed to share space with public schools. New York Daily News columnist Bill Hammond wrote, "Gov. Paterson deserves high marks for his early and outspoken support for charter schools." The New York Post also offered praise writing, "As a state senator representing Harlem, he was keenly aware of the heartbreaking social cost imposed by public schools that have failed generation after generation of boys and girls." 

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July 31, 2008

Senator Mary Landrieu Stands Up To Critics Of Education Reform

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Louisiana's senior senator, Senator Mary Landrieu, has strived to reform our country's education system throughout her career as a legislator. She has actively supported education reform in Louisiana, and has been a strong proponent of charter schools throughout the parishes of her state. Senator Landrieu says of her duty to the children of this country, "I believe it is my job as Louisiana's senior senator to help our state find the resources it needs to secure for every child the finest education possible."

Since winning her Senate seat in a hotly contested election in 1996, Landrieu has been a strong advocate of charter schools and education reform. She opposed abandoning the public education system in favor of private school vouchers in Washington D.C., and was the subject of brutal criticism for doing so. She said of the attacks, "I'm willing to take a few lashes that are being dished out if it means that the children in the city get more opportunities for a quality education."

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July 24, 2008

Assemblyman Michael Benjamin Fights For Quality Education In The Bronx

undefinedAssembly Michael Benjamin's bold support of charter schools through published letters and public appearances has put him in the forefront of the education reform movement in New York State. From his work in lifting the charter school cap, to his quest to bring the cupcake back to school cafeterias, Benjamin has demonstrated his willingness to take an active and vocal approach to help improve the quality of children's lives.

Assemblyman Benjamin, who represents District 79 (the South Bronx), has been a fighter for quality education since assuming office in 2003. Benjamin was an early advocate of charter schools in New York. In a letter to the Legislative Gazette in March of 2005, Benjamin wrote, "Since the inception of the charter school law in 1998, charter schools have multiplied in communities where students are most in need of academic improvement. That's because parents are demanding more model schools like those already operating that are making a difference in their children's education. To keep that momentum going in educational reform, we need to lift the cap on charter schools."

In 2006, Benjamin appeared with other courageous New York State lawmakers to support a measure to raise the cap on charter schools. That same year he appeared at the groundbreaking of the Eagle Academy for Boys in the Bronx, continuing his support of innovation in education.

In 2007, Assemblyman Benjamin supported the state budget's appropriations for charter schools stating, "The state budget authorizes up to 50 more charter schools for New York City while instituting reforms to ease the financial impact of local school districts, increase accountability, and ensure communities have a voice in where they are located."

Benjamin's vocal support of charter schools has often put him at odds with local unions. According to the New York Sun, Benjamin met with members of the Municipal Public Employees Union in 2007 to speak about his support of charter schools. Benjamin reportedly asked the members if any of them had family members in charter schools. According to Benjamin, many responded that they did have family members attending charter schools. Benjamin told the New York Sun that he then asked, "So why shouldn't other families have the opportunity to have success?"

Assemblyman Michael Benjamin has time and again shown New York his devotion to ensuring that every child receive a quality education. He is a true reformer, and a tireless fighter for the Bronx in Albany. 

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July 17, 2008

Former Governor Mark Warner Looks To Senate To Continue Progress On Education

Warner pic 1Mark Warner, former Governor of Virginia and current candidate for the US Senate, has dedicated his political career to improving public education. Between 2002 and 2006 Warner spent much of his time as Governor working to improve Virginia's K-12 public education system. He spoke out in support of alternative schooling, such as charter schools, and secured large amounts of funding for education. Under Warner's leadership in 2002 and 2003, K-12 funding was increased by over $100 million. In 2004 Warner implemented a tax package that led to a $1.5 billion increase in funding for K-12, the largest K-12 investment in the history of the state.

After securing this increase in funds, Gov. Warner worked to create innovative and efficient programs to help improve Virginia's public school system. One major project was the Education for a Lifetime (EFL) initiatives, which focus on teacher quality, retention and recruitment. One aspect of the initiatives is providing teachers with incentives to stay at a disadvantaged school or relocate to another, understaffed school. Another EFL initiative is the renowned Virginia School Turnaround Specialist Program, which works to improve leadership in low-performing schools. Under this program, which Warner launched in 2004, top-ranked faculty members from Virginia graduates schools are brought in to train public school principals. The program has been an enormous success, and it has spread to other cities including Chicago and Philadelphia. 

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July 10, 2008

Congressman James Clyburn Leads The Battle For Education Reform

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South Carolina Congressman James E. Clyburn's dedication to education can be traced back to his days teaching history in Charleston, South Carolina. Once elected to the United States Congress in 1992, Clyburn's shepherding of education bills pushed him to the forefront of our country's leaders in education reform. Since then he has risen to become the first South Carolinian and second African-American House Majority Whip.

When Congressman Clyburn joined community partners to open the James E. Clyburn Community Empowerment Center in 2007, he added to his legacy of a lifetime's worth of passionate support for education reform by providing children and adults access to technological and educational resources. At the opening of the center he stated, "From my first career as a high school teacher to my current position in the U.S. House of Representatives, I have always dedicated myself to providing youth the best opportunities to succeed in life."

In mid-November 2007, Congressman Clyburn visited Harlem Success Academy Charter School in New York City and was incredibly impressed by what he saw, later describing his visit as "deeply emotional." This visit triggered Clyburn into becoming a vocal advocate of school choice. On November 26, 2008 Clyburn told the New York Sun, "There are few things that are more vital than ensuring that all of our children have access to a meaningful and productive education."

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July 3, 2008

DFER Education Warrior: Assemblyman Sam Hoyt

Sam Hoyt

New York Assemblyman Sam Hoyt is a true crusader for education. In his 16 years serving the 144th Assembly district, Assemblyman Hoyt has fought hard for increased funding in education and has been an influential proponent of charter schools.

A self-described "leading proponent for charter schools," Assemblyman Hoyt has a history of standing behind progressive education. He was a strong and early supporter of charter schools in New York - long before it was popular - often defending the concept and legislation in legislative sessions and budget deliberations. In 2004 he was honored by the New York Charter Schools Association (NYCSA) with the annual Charter School Champion Award along with New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein. At that time, NYCSA President Bill Phillips stated that Hoyt was "a fighter for children and a hero to the charter school movement, particularly in the City of Buffalo where charters are changing the face of public education."

Upon receiving his award, Assemblyman Hoyt stated, "Children and parents deserve choices when it comes to their education and charters provide an option to the status quo." 

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June 26, 2008

Freshman State Senator Craig Johnson Hits His Stride On Education Reform

johnsonAfter only one year in Albany, New York State Senator Craig Johnson has made a splash in the education reform movement.

Sen. Johnson made history in 2007 as the first Democrat elected to represent New York's 7th District in over 100 years. Backed by the support of a constituency crying out for change, Johnson vigorously fought for education funding for the 16 schools in his district. 

In 2007, despite his relatively short time in the Senate, Sen. Johnson broke ranks with his party and secured $25 million for the 7th district – a 19.27 percent increase from the previous year. This was a record amount of school budget funding for the district and the largest increase that year of any senate district on Long Island.

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