Monday, May 24, 2010

Is the UFT About to Blink on Lifting Charter School Cap?

The dominoes continue to fall as the UFT backpedals on every issue from rubber rooms to teacher evaluations based on test scores and now the lifting of the charter school cap. The NY Post reports:

The odds of reaching an agreement to lift the cap on charter schools improved markedly after negotiators made "major progress" in resolving two controversial issues, a source close to the talks said yesterday. City, state and union negotiators have discussed creating an advisory council that would assess the impact of sharing space with traditional public schools. But the task force would not have the power to block a charter school from moving into a building. City, state and union negotiators have discussed creating an advisory council that would assess the impact of sharing space with traditional public schools. But the task force would not have the power to block a charter school from moving into a building.

Duhhh! That's the ticket, another advisory committee. Leonie Haimson asks: "How many impotent advisory councils do we already have, whose “advice” the administration totally ignores? 32 CECs and the CCHS. How many more do we need? Zero."

Another issue the union seems to be backtracking on is the for-profit charter operator issue. The Post says,

There are three such firms that operate about 10 percent of charter schools in the state. The teachers union has called for a ban on for-profit firms running the publicly funded, but privately managed, charter schools. One idea floated would cap the number of schools run by for-profit firms [my emphasis].

That's another ticket. Cap 'em, double entendre intended. For the time being. We know how the ed deformers work. Get the charter cap lifted by agreeing to limit for profits and then just go and do what they want anyway. By the way, the way around this is to count each block of schools as one. Thus Victory greedy blood suckers could have 10 schools but count them all as one. Watch a battle emerge to get this wrinkle in once they get their pound of flesh.

Don't miss this knock-down:

Leonie Haimson vs. James Merriman

Event: Leonie will debate James Merriman of NYC Charter Center
Start Time: Thursday, May 27 at 8:00pm
End Time: Thursday, May 27 at 9:00pm
Where: A bar called 49 Grove, at the corner of Bleecker Street.

To see more details and RSVP, follow the link below:

Leonie had some further comments on her listserve. Isn't it great to have parent activists stand up for the right things while our own union lays down and dies?

By now, you probably have been seeing lots of ads on TV and flooding the internet from Education Reform Now, a group which is pushing to raise the charter cap in NY State and to eliminate seniority protections for teachers.

On its website, ERN claims to be a "coalition of parents, teachers and education advocates" but is really a bunch of deep-pocketed hedge-fund operators.

In their "Race to the Top" ads, ERN is spreading disinformation; imploring parents and others to "send a message to Albany,” implying that if the State lifts the cap on charters, we will get enough federal funds to prevent the need for budget cuts to our schools, and the threatened loss of thousands of teaching positions. In an oped written for Crain’s, James Merriman of the Charter Center wrote the following:

“Across New York state, school districts are so strapped for cash they're doing the unthinkable—laying off teachers and cutting core programs that directly affect student learning. At the same time, the federal government is offering New York $700 million in education funding for agreeing to reforms that have the potential to raise student achievement and offset devastating budget cuts.”

This is simply untrue.

As Kathleen Grimm, DOE Deputy Chancellor, admitted to the City Council a week ago, and the federal government has confirmed several times over, these funds CANNOT be used to offset budget cuts, prevent teacher layoffs or cuts to afterschool programs, but in Grimm’s words are “very restrictive.”

Indeed, they can only be used for a very narrow set of policies, including teacher evaluation and merit pay based on test scores, more data gathering, etc. – few of which would actually improve the quality of our children’s education.

And what are the so called “common sense education reforms”? The charter school lobby is spending millions to try to persuade the Legislature to radically expand the number of charters, while insisting that the State Comptroller be barred from auditing charter schools' use of public funds, preventing parents from having a say in their co-locations in public school buildings, and insisting that profit-making operations continue to be able to make a buck off our kids.

I urge you not to fall for their pro-privatization propaganda.

Already, the city plans to spend $545 million next year on charters, more than the $493 million in cuts planned from our public school budgets. We simply cannot afford to lose any more money from the classroom. Given how our schools are bleeding, the proposal to expand spending on charters is outrageous.

(To see a list of charter schools that are applying for next year, and who could be coming into your district soon if the cap is lifted, check out
New Charter School Applicants to SUNY-CSI, Summer 2010 and New Charter School Applicants to NYCDOE, Summer 2010)

The Assembly will be considering raising the charter cap this week.

Call your Assemblymember today, and ask him or her to restore full funding to the education budget, and not to raise the charter cap unless there are rigorous protections for taxpayer and parent rights; including for the CECs to have the authority to approve all co-locations.

Find your state legislators at; for the Assembly, the toll free no. is 1-877-255-9417 and press 3.

I have also heard from several PTAs that they have received emails from an employee working for ERN; asking if she can talk at your PTA meeting, send a message to parents, or post a link to their online petition about their campaign to “Keep Great Teachers.”

Of course, we all want to keep great teachers; and the best way to do so is to fight against the threatened budget cuts to our schools. But by undermining seniority protections, this group is out to further undermine public education by weakening the professional status of the teaching profession; so that our schools are confronted with a revolving door of inexperienced (read: cheaper) teachers.

The reality is that there are only two objective, quantifiable factors that research has clearly linked to more effective teaching; teacher experience and smaller classes.

Unfortunately, this administration and their buddies on Wall St. – none of whom have their own children in NYC public schools -- are doing everything they can to undermine our kids’ access to both of these critical factors


Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters

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