Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Conversation With a Young (do they have anything else?) Charter School Teacher

"One of the main attractions of my charter school is how much more I am paid than a public school teacher: $64,000 starting salary vs. $49,000 for NYCDOE."... 2nd year charter school teacher
I find it funny to be in a position of defending a system that I always thought was not a good one and desperately needed reform. 

At the beach yesterday we were hanging out with friends and some of their kids and their kids' friends. One of the young ladies is a 2nd year teacher in Brooklyn at a charter chain - she is a former Teach For America. Her first words to me were that she teaches in a charter school but wants to teach in a public school eventually. Why? "Because the charter school model is not sustainable." Neither is TFA the felt.

Here is the good, bad and ugly of our conversation.

She said she likes the school, a grade 5-8 school. It is well-run and she feels they do not use harsh discipline measures. I mentioned KIPP and SLANT. She knew what I was talking about. In fact I think I have heard similar negative stories about her chain but not sure of my facts didn't challenge her.

She teaches a non-testing subject so there is no pressure on her like people teaching tested subjects and she didn't think she could handle that kind of pressure. Her bosses say as much openly. Reading and math are all that count.

She exhibits some of the TFA and ed deform propaganda. "Public schools do not serve black and brown students and charters do." She said that white students were well served by the public schools.

Interesting pulling of the race card that I imagine charter school proponents are using in certain communities which eventually leads to the charge that opponents of charters are racist.
I explained the basic lack of resource issue in public schools where charters, especially chains have enormous funding sources in addition to the public money they get - that I had taught for 30 years in a school of only black and brown students and felt that we had served a lot of them to the best of our ability. She asked me if I thought the school was well-managed. In some ways it was but the leadership was also narrowly obsessed by test scores and it was a top-down situation but that we had a very experienced staff that mostly knew what they were doing.

I raised the issue of the disappearing kids from grade to grade - I asked if she sees classes from 5th-8th grade shrinking. She acknowledged that. I asked if the school back filled and she did not seem to think so. Meaning: The lowest performing students disappeared into the public schools.

We were interrupted and I never got to tell her that our top students were "served" but now they are being lured out of public schools and into charters by the propaganda mill. That the ultimate goal is to extract the highest performing students and leave the rest in the resource-starved public schools.

I find it funny to be in a position of defending a system that I always thought was not a good one and desperately needed reform. For decades before the ed deform attacks I fought that system and the UFT that supported it. So I have to temper any enthusiasm for what was and still is a corrupt public school system because what is being offered is so much worse. It is like the Trump-Hillary story. People feel forced to defend Hillary to stop Trump.

She loves her job with caveats. Her chain has a path to a Masters degree program - maybe with some financial support - an important way to retain teachers - another major charter advantage.

So what's not to like? Why does she want to end up teaching in a public school? The much longer hours and time commitments - her $15000 higher salary to a public school starting salary is really to cover some of those extra hours. Both public and charter teachers still have to put in a lot of extra time in addition to the salary but with a longer day, charter school teacher days are even longer.

"I am very tired at the end of the day," she said. "The charter model is not sustainable." She loves teaching but even with a weak union over the long run she prefers a job with some protections even it means working in the NYCDOE.


  1. She is not really getting "paid" more for working in a charter school. She is rather working longer hours for more money. By the way, I have a friend who was discontinued from the DOE a couple of years ago and is now in an NYC charter school. The one good thing that she likes about the charter school is that there is is no Danielson BS. She hardly ever gets observed.

  2. DOE starting salary is $51,650 as of May 2016. In May of 2017, it's $54,000. The "extra" $10,000 looks like a lot less when you add in the extended day (and half day Saturdays) many charter teachers have.

  3. Charter schools are the first step to destroying, for the most part, free universal public education in the United States. We most likely will be left with a small skeletal infrastructure of public schools. Many dominated countries which were forced to implement neo-liberal policies in education wound up with a majority of very inferior privately managed, resource-starved schools and very few similarly resource-starved public schools. Unfortunately, with the proliferation of the charter school movement, that's where U.S. schools are heading. It's total government disinvestment in public education.


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