Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Mindy Rosier from MORE on Charters

Mindy Rosier wrote this piece for the MORE blog. If you don't know about Mindy, currently a member of the MORE steering committee, you will. She is a tireless advocate for teachers and children. Mindy has been teaching for over 15 years and became active about a year ago. Her special needs school, Mickey Mantle, shared space in Harlem with Evil Moskowitz Success Academy and Public School PS 149 (MORE's Patrick Walsh - also on MORE steering who joined with Mindy in organizing the building - is Chapter Leader there). Eva wanted to expand into the space Mickey Mantle occupied, thus forcing them out of the building. That was one of 3 locations de Blasio denied to Eva and was beaten like a mule, leading to Cuomo and the state legislature forcing deB to pay rent for Eva's expansion. But Mickey Mantle was saved.

Mindy was a key player in the battle - she became active on a number of fronts. She helped lead a rally at the school and a bunch of MOREistas showed up and out of that relationship Mindy has become a core activist in MORE. I only know her a few months but seeing how she takes care of stuff - including people  - I have already expressed the thought that I wish she were my mom. (And by the way - her mom went to Erasmus HS with my wife and signed each others' year books.)

I've always maintained that it will be people like Mindy, regular teachers - the rank and file - who will create change in the UFT once a trigger gets pulled that unleashes their power. It won't be the usual suspects (like me or the left ideologues)* who lead the way. This is how I met the always awesome Julie Cavanagh 5 years ago - when a charter invaded her school and something in her got triggered. And Jia Lee and Lauren Cohen, fugitives from a bully principal and abused as teachers by the testing regime. Both have become MORE stalwarts. And of course, my adopted son, Mike Schirtzer, the only Republican in MORE. There are more people like that coming to MORE - just not enough to make much of a difference - Yet. To those screaming for a challenge to Unity Caucus, it won't happen in an election. It will only happen when there are hundreds of Mindys et al out there organizing.

I'll be in the old age home by then - one of the requirements for new members in MORE is to promise to come and feed my my oatmeal.

*Note that there have been some recent criticisms of MORE publicly and privately as if all MOREistas had one point of view - I'll be writing more about the factions in MORE.

Charter schools continue to receive a windfall to the tune of tens of millions of potential dollars in free space, either in a public school or in a city-subsidized private space, more per pupil funding than public schools, and an essentially unfettered ability to expand at the expense of existing public schools. The charter school giveaways are nothing short of a death sentence for the sustainability of New York City’s public school system
The financial burden of providing and paying for charter school space and services for co-locations will be crippling. This will be especially difficult once the cap of 200 charter schools is reached. As of now there are currently 3 charter schools left on the cap in NYC, but there will be “more” because existing charters can expand grades without being included in the cap. The city is required to find the resources to pay. Only after $40 million is spent on private charter rent, will the state contribute to an undetermined amount of assistance. We need funding policies that will support the facilities and space needed for the approximately 93.4%of public school children learning in overcrowded and substandard facilities.
Charters schools receive MORE per pupil funding than public schools. This creates even greater inequity in our school system favoring the approximately 7.6% of NYC’s school children who currently attend charter schools. Combine that with the millions in private funding charters receive from millionaire and billionaire donors who have an interest in privatizing our education system and the goal becomes clear: undermine and dismantle every child’s right to go to the school of his or her choice. The new policy will force students to fill out an application, win a lottery, and adhere to undemocratic governance and a set of rules that leave families vulnerable to discrimination and push-out, not to mention increased segregation in an already segregated school system. We need policies that seek to create equity and increase the integration of our school system, not make it worse
The new law requiring charter space puts the expansion of public schools in New York City at risk because it encourages charter school expansion over the expansion of public schools. New York City schools have some of the highest class sizes and most overcrowding in the state. We need support to help end this crisis, not make it worse.
The financial sustainability of our school system is at risk. As more public dollars are funneled into education corporations and charter schools, fewer public dollars are available for our public schools. At a certain point, and we have heard the “tipping point” is 10% enrollment in charter schools in NYC, we will reach a financial crisis that will make it impossible to balance the funding needs for both charters and public schools, thus allowing the kind of wholesale transfer of public schools to charter operators as we have seen in New Orleans, Philadelphia, now encroaching on Camden, and state-wide in Tennessee.
Governor Cuomo not only allowed the charter school windfall to be central to this year’s budget, he was one of, if not the, architect(s). The self-proclaimed “student lobbyist” is truly a charter-hedge-funder lobbyist beholden to campaign dollars in an election year and further influenced by his national political aspirations.
Legislators from around the state, save a brave few such as state Senator Montgomery and Harlem’s Senator Perkins whose constituents have experienced the horrors and inequity of charter co-locations and expansion first hand, said precious little and took no stand in rejecting this budget.
Our Mayor, who ran on putting an end to the favor of charters at the expense of our public schools and received a clear mandate to do so by the voters in our city, was at the very least powerless to stop the giveaway and at worst raised no vocal objection, perhaps considering funding for universal Pre-K a worthy enough win, even though charters will also have the right to open Pre-K.
The true student-lobbyists, parents, students, rank-and-file educators and community members, must stand together to demand full funding and support for our public schools. We must make it clear that an investment in a system that serves ALL children that is governed by the people, not private unaccountable and non-transparent interests, is vital to the health and success of our children.
We have learned from our personal experiences that charter space support and expansion in communities results in a negative impact on the community itself, causing unnecessary strain and tension, as well as on the existing schools. But equally important, because these issues were at our doorstep, we also understand the deep systemic issues surrounding charters: the drive to privatize our public education system, the impact of charter push-out, the impact of a two-tiered system where one school is privileged over another, and the bigger picture of the undermining of public education and all that entails from worker protections, to funding, to the way children are treated.
MORE stands in solidarity with the approximately 93.4% of families who want high quality neighborhood schools for their children. We stand by our teachers involved in this fight. We cannot achieve the promise of public education if the funding, facilities and services we need to provide are at-risk. Cuomo does not stand for our children. He stands for his own political interests fueled by charter school dollars and we WILL hold him accountable!
According to www.nyccharterschools.org, this is what we are looking at; past, present, and THEIR expected future…
The future of our schools, our children, and our livelihoods are at stake! We need to fight!

* VERY IMPORTANT NOTE- Information obtained by the Teachers Diversity Committee (TDC) of NYC from Success Academy charter schools, showed that for the 2013-2014 school year, 13 out of 15 locations have a significantly higher percentage of white teachers than was the city wide average for public schools in NYC which in 2012, was 58.6%. The mandate to expand charters is increasing racial segregation of students and decreasing teacher diversity in NYC schools overall.
How you can help-
Charter-school co-location hearings: Join us as we stand together with parents, students, and fellow UFT’ers against the privatization of our schools and defend public schools that serve the local community. MORE stands against the proliferation of charter schools crowding out district schools for teachers, rooms and other resources in favor of charters that do not serve all our children. Charters are are often run by corporations as for-profits.
Contact: You can contact Lauren about upcoming hearings and PEPs. You can also contact Julie, Patrick, and Mindy to mobilize your school’s efforts to fight back.
Twitter: @MOREcaucusNYC

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