To say there is incredible political pressure to lift the Charter School cap in our state is an understatement. There is little question that most people see the charter movement as a way to loosen union control of our schools. In a disturbing article, published today in the New York Times, David Herszenhorn reports that City has offered to cover the cost of two thirds of the construction of new charter schools. Additionally other money sources from the state would be found as well.
As the exclusive bargaining representative of DOE teachers and staff the UFT does not have to organize new schools opened up the DOE. When a charter school opens it is a different story.
Last year we were duped into believing that by opening a union run charter school we would help stem the tide of non-unionized charters by demonstrating that a union run school (with all the contract trimmings) would flourish and prove to the world that the contract (and unionization) was not an impediment to effective schools. Although not said at the time it was clearly believed that we could hold the cap (currently limited to 100) to prevent a mass migration of public schools turning into publicly funded and privately run charters. This was based on our political strength since the cap was state legislated and we believe we still have influence.
Even if every new Charter school became UFT organized the City would still push for them. Under the Charter laws new schools have a certain and short period of time to “prove” themselves. This proof is demonstrated through testing and those schools that do not make the “grade” have their charters removed. Imagine if the City could shut down every public school that did not make the grade!
Adding to this disturbing trend is the position our Union must now make in reaction to this political firestorm. Since we now “own” a piece of this “movement” Randi responded to the City’s offer by saying “rather than pushing to lift the cap on charter schools, Mr. Klein and the administration should be fighting Albany to resolve a dispute over standardized testing that will require the city's third, fifth and seventh graders to take two different sets of reading and math tests this year.”
Good way to keep your cap on!