schools to provide opportunities for teachers, parents, and community
members to establish and maintain schools that operate independently of
existing schools and school districts in order to accomplish the
(a) Improve student learning and achievement;
(b) Increase learning opportunities for all students, with special
emphasis on expanded learning experiences for students who are at-risk
of academic failure;
(c) Encourage the use of different and innovative teaching methods;
(d) Create new professional opportunities for teachers, school
administrators and other school personnel;
(e) Provide parents and students with expanded choices in the types of
educational opportunities that are available within the public school
(f) Provide schools with a method to change from rule-based to
performance-based accountability systems by holding the schools
established under this article accountable for meeting measurable
student achievement results.
The UFT on Jan. 3 released a report, Separate and Unequal: The Failure of New York City Charter Schools to Serve the City’s Neediest Students.
The report’s recommendations include:
- mandating that charter schools commit to serving at least the district-wide average of neediest students, including but not limited to English Language Learners and special education pupils. If necessary, the lottery process for charter attendance should be centralized and overseen by a neutral third party.
- banning for-profit firms from owning or operating charter schools, and capping management fees and charter school salaries at public sector levels.
- insisting that for every improvement made in public school buildings (with public or private dollars) to accommodate a charter school, matching or comparable improvements be made for other district schools located in the same building.
- prohibiting the co-location of charter schools in New York City school buildings until New York City schools have reached their class size targets under the Department of Education’s Contract for Excellence.
- mandating that city and state officials can audit both financial and operational data for charter schools, and that such data be made available under the state’s Freedom of Information law. Charter school board members and employees should be subject to the same financial disclosure requirements and conflict-of-interest prohibitions as other public officials and employees.
- ensuring workers’ rights by applying prevailing wage laws to charter school construction/renovation projects, and automatically recognizing local school district unions as the bargaining representatives for charter school employees (though new contracts would have to be negotiated “de novo” for each charter school).
The report and recommendations come as the Legislature has been urged to change the state’s current cap of 200 on charter schools as part of its application for federal Race to the Top funds.
The Report was supported by a number of legislators lead by Senator John Sampson, the Majority Leader of the NYS Senate. Assembly member Alan Maisel (D, Canarsie), who introduced a bill in the last session requiring charter schools to enroll at least the same percents of special education and ELL students as in the catchment districts, questioned whether charter schools were “innovative,” or whether they have simply “cherry-picked” students. Assembly member Linda Rosenthal (D, Upper West Side) chided charter schools and the Department of Education over the favoritism shown to charter schools in the allocation of space in public schools.
The legislators will convene on January 6th, listen to Governor Patterson’s State of the State message, and begin to grapple with how to produce a budget with a yawning $9 billion gap, in an election year. The new fiscal year begins April 1 and the folk in Albany, the 150 Assembly members, the 61 Senators and the Governor have a daunting task. The budget will “eat up all the air” as the clock ticks to April 1.
Charter school law changes, whether caps or the range of changes introduced by Sam Hoyt or the UFT will be debated in the post budget days. Last year the Assembly Education Committee held a series of well-attended hearings around the city as the School Governance Bill was crafted. It is possible that the legislature will once again ask for public input as an amended charter school bill takes shape.
Back in the fall/winter of 1787-88 James Madison, Alexander Hamilton (an emigrant from the island of Nevis in the Caribbean) and John Jay published eighty-five op ed articles in New York City newspapers calling for the ratification of the Constitution.
The intent of charter schools was simply to free schools of “rule-based accountability systems,” to “encourage the use of different and innovative teaching methods;” to create “teacher-led laboratories of reform that would experiment with new instructional practices.” In reality charter schools have become, for the most part, union-free schools without any clear “innovative” educational philosophy.
To quote Madison, “Men of fractious tempers, of local prejudices, or of sinister designs, may by intrigue, by corruption or other means, first obtain the suffrages, and then betray the interests of the people.”