Education Opinion

Wrong Charge About Union-Run Schools

By Walt Gardner — March 09, 2015 1 min read
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It’s so easy to blame teachers’ unions for all the ills afflicting public education. The latest example involves the announcement that the UFT Charter School that opened in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 2005 with great fanfare will be closing (“A Union Charter Flunks Out,” The Wall Street Journal, Mar. 7).

Despite an initial $1 million gift from the Broad Foundation and subsequent United Federation of Teachers funding to cover deficits, the K-8 charter school was never able to post satisfactory results. For example, in 2014, 11 percent of students were rated proficient in English and 18 percent in math. This compared with 28 percent and 36 percent in schools with similar demographics.

Eager to conclude that teachers’ unions are incapable of providing students with a sound education, reformers forget that running schools is not their reason for being any more than teaching students is the reason for the existence of administrators. Teachers teach and administrators administer. Schools need both. Gleefully pointing to the closing of the UFT Charter School in Brooklyn is uncalled for . It proves nothing except to underscore the importance of respecting the division of labor between teaching and administering.

I’m not arguing that teachers’ unions should never be involved in running schools. Perhaps they can be successful. But I submit that different expertise is needed for the job. By the same token, I don’t hold Jeb Bush responsible for the shuttering of Liberty City Charter School, the first school of its kind in Florida, even though he was the single force behind its inception (“Charter School Hailed by Bush Ended in Ruin,” The New York Times, Mar. 8). He is a politician - not an educator.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.