Betsy, Eva, Andrew: The Beginning of the Demise of Teacher Certification or A Cuomo Political Strategy?

Within days of the end of the special session of the state legislature the SUNY Board of Trustees approved a new regulation – teachers in SUNY authorized charter schools are no longer required to be certified by the State Department of Education – charter school networks can now self-certify teachers: no college courses, no student teaching, no pre-service tests.  Politico writes,

New York City’s charter school sector appears to have secured a significant victory in the 11th hour of the Legislative session Wednesday night, with a set of regulations that will make it much easier for large charter networks to hire more uncertified teachers.

All other teachers must complete a program approved by the state education department as well as meet CAEP Standards (Council on the Accreditation Of Education Programs) and pass three separate tests: the edTPA (a self-assessment developed by Stanford), Educating All Students (multiple choice and essay test emphasizing teaching children with disabilities and English language learners) and a Content Specialty Test, also multiple choice and essay testing knowledge and literacy within their area of expertise. SUNY teachers would not have to meet ANY of these requirements.

Read new SUNY charter school teacher requirements here.

Read requirements for all other charter school teachers here.

Read requirements for public school teachers

The current charter school law does allow charter schools leeway in the employment of non-certified teachers,

 [uncertified teachers]shall not in total comprise more than  the sum of: (A) thirty per centum of the teaching  staff  of  a  charter  school,  or  five teachers, whichever is less; plus (B) five teachers of  mathematics,  science,  computer  science,  technology,  or  career  and  technical  education;  plus  (C)  five  additional  teachers

The new SUNY regulations appear to be in conflict with the charter school law.

There is general agreement the teacher is the key to student achievement. A massive Chetty et. al., project reports,

students assigned to high-Value Added teachers are more likely to attend college, earn higher salaries, and are less likely to have children as teenagers. Replacing a teacher whose Value Added is in the bottom 5% with an average teacher would increase the present value of students’ lifetime income by approximately $250,000 per classroom.

Teachers are at the heart of improving student outcomes.

In comparison with high achieving nations, teachers in the United States commonly come from the lower half of colleges academically as measured by standing in class or scores on the SAT exam. Teachers in Finland, for example, come from the top of their class. The reasons are complex; in many states teachers are poorly paid, low social status, seemingly constant external attacks on the teaching profession; test prep-based instruction are all part of the package that discourages students from choosing teaching as a profession.

Pasi Sahlberg, a frequent writer on Finnish education relates,

Finnish primary school teacher education programmes that lead to an advanced, research-based degree are so popular among young Finns that only one in 10 applicants is accepted each year. Those lucky students then have to study for five to six years before they are allowed to teach a class of their own.

We know that teachers matter, in fact, teachers are the at the core of any educational program, we know that high achieving nations have highly selective teacher preparation programs and we know that the teaching force in the United States tends to be “average.”

Ronald Ferguson, from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard in an excellent study examines the relationship between scores on preservice teacher exams and student scores on state reading and math tests and concludes,

my judgment is that a positive causal relationship between students’ and teachers’ scores should be the working assumption among policy makers.

Read the entire paper, “Certification Test Scores, Teacher Quality and Student Achievement” here.

The New York Post, in an editorial jumps on board, praising the actions of the SUNY trustees,

This would let schools hire scientists, engineers and other qualified professionals without forcing them to waste time earning education degrees or mastering the arcana essential to passing the state test.

The editorial board ignores, or is unaware, that the current charter school law (see above) allows charter schools to employ uncertified staff.

If the research is overwhelming and charter schools already operate under relaxed certification requirements why is the new regulation necessary?

Let’s begin with Betsy DeVos, a billionaire with a Swiftian view of mankind (“A Modest Proposal For preventing the Children of Poor People From being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and For making them Beneficial to the Publick”)  is deeply religious and believes her family is among the “chosen,” a perverted Calvinist world view who probably has a copy of The Fountainhead  at her bedside. For DeVos the battle for souls is the battle of “collectivism,” versus “individual responsibility.”  Public education, “collectivist” versus an unregulated educational marketplace, aka,”individual responsibility;” success or failure of schools decided by the whims of the marketplace. The idea of teacher certification would be abhorrent to DeVos.

For Eva Moskowitz, the architect of the plan, the regulations are an exercise in power. Eva was idolized by former NYC Chancellor Joel Klein – see the Joel-Eva e-correspondence here.

Under the de Blasio mayoralty Eva has had to seek a new patron, and, she has successfully bewitched our governor, Andrew Cuomo.  In exchange for a two year extension in mayoral control in New York City, a year beyond the 2018 gubernatorial election the governor and the mayor agreed to increase the number of New York City charter school slots by adding in the numbers from closed charter schools, to process charter school space requests more quickly and the drastic change to allowing SUNY charter schools to circumvent teacher certification regulations. Cuomo continues to walk the thin line between Republican and Democrat and independent. Up to now he has successfully navigated the dangerous waters, the modern day Scylla and Charybdis.  On one hand the recent state education budget contained the largest increase in state funding that we ever seen, as well as burying the repulsive student test score-based teacher evaluation plan. On the other hand currying favor with charter crowd, at arm’s length. The SUNY charter school regulations are not part of the law; however, the SUNY Board of Trustees are Cuomo appointees. A one-time gift to buy off the charter school dollars in the 2018 gubernatorial election, or, will he seek to expand the regulations to all teacher candidates in the state?  Is “going to war” with the largest union in the state his strategy or is he carefully setting the stage by drying up charter dollars for his opponent?  And, don’t forget, in the cavalry charge for the 2020 run Andrew will be in the pack.

Interestingly, in the waning days of the legislative sessions Senator Brad Holyman (D-NYC) introduced the Charter School Accountability and Transparency Act, and, while the bill never moved will it be revived next year and will it gain traction, especially with the governor? The SUNY charters, and Eva, got their “we can hire anyone” regulations passed by the governor’s appointees, will the governor extract a price from Eva?

 Senate Bill S.6578, sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman will provide enhanced transparency and accountability for New York taxpayers by implementing regulations for charter schools on enrollment targets, discipline policies, compensation plans for executive and financial backers, as well as other operations. Some of highlights of this legislation include proposals to:

  • Require charter schools connected with non-profits to specify the extent of the company’s participation in the management and operation of the school;
  • Require charter schools to disclose executive compensations as well as all loans or gifts received over one thousand dollars;
  • Limit the charter executives’ salaries to $199,000 annually, with limited exceptions;
  • Require charter schools to disclose regular financial statements outlining the assets of the school and, if applicable, any of its affiliated corporate/business entities, valued over one million dollars;
  • Require charter schools that request co-location to demonstrate that the school does not have the financial capacity to procure adequate facilities. Charters with assets that are valued at over one million dollars would be ineligible to be offered co-located or private space;
  • Limit the time a charter school may be offered private space at no cost to three years and limit rental aid payments to six years; and
  • Require charter schools to admit and retain an equal or greater enrollment of ELLs, students with disabilities, and free lunch recipients compared to the district’s public school enrollment.

Politics is the art of compromise: a political maxim: never say never (almost never), and, there is always the next election, burning bridges is not a strategy. Our governor is an enigmatic complicated politician, easy to dislike, and, the most powerful politician in the state. In my view the endgame is the path that leads to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. For those of you who say “never” think back a year.

UPDATE: You can submit comments to the SUNY Charter Institute for the next 45 days at


6 responses to “Betsy, Eva, Andrew: The Beginning of the Demise of Teacher Certification or A Cuomo Political Strategy?

  1. Pingback: New York: Charter Schools Win Power to Hire Non-Professional “Teachers” | Diane Ravitch's blog

  2. To say this is one more bad decision depends on your perspective. If you want to give all children the tools necessary to reach their potential this is a BAD decision. But if your goal is to keep and build an underclass permanently in place is makes sense. It seems to me to deny all Americans access to the American dream is not what this coountry should be about.


  3. When The NYC Teaching Fellows program was introduced, they brought in retired judges,lawyers,nurses,business people and other career retirees. While they knew their business, they knew nothing of classroom management, or for the most part, how to interact with children. In every profession, (and The US Supreme Court did declare Teaching to be a profession,) there are Certification/licensure requirements. I don’t care how successful a Charter school may be, I would want my child to be in the presence of a certified teacher I think this latest change is going to backfire “big time” against the charters. I believe that as more uncertified teachers are hired by them, more of their children will be discharged and turned back to the local public schools. That continuum will one day lead to their demise.


  4. Interesting how the NY Post demonizes ATRs as bad teachers while supporting the hiring of uncertified teachers, with no teaching experience. What hypocrites!


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