Fight Over Charter Cap Erupts in Empire State

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments
See Also
Return to main story, “A School of Their Own”

Even though the American Federation of Teachers’ largest local affiliate has opened its own charter school in New York City, the state affiliate is firmly opposed to plans by the governor and legislators to raise the statewide cap on how many charters are permitted in the Empire State.

Following up on unsuccessful efforts last year, Gov. George E. Pataki of New York is seeking legislation to allow 200 new charters to open in the state, including 50 that would be approved by the 1.1 million-student city school system itself.

“Charter schools work,” the Republican governor told members of the Senate and the Assembly, the legislature’s lower house, in his Jan. 17 budget address. “The entire 100 charters have now been used. So let’s increase the number.”

Several lawmakers and analysts say they are confident that, by the time budget negotiations are wrapped up this year, the governor will get his wish. “I would predict that the cap is going to be raised this year,” said Sen. James S. Alesi, a Republican from Rochester, noting that the plan is winning support not just from Republicans but also from Democrats, who control the Assembly.

“Much of the appetite for charter schools comes from those urban areas and predominantly minority families that want to have a choice,” he said. “So it’s turning Democrat Assembly members, and most of them are people of color, on to an idea that goes against the grain of the way the Assembly operates.”

‘Unproven’ Experiment?

Currently, any charters approved by the New York City school system or any other district must receive final approval from the state board of regents. Under Mr. Pataki’s plan, the regents’ approval would be unnecessary for New York City.

The effort to raise the charter cap will face resistance, however, from the AFT’s powerful state affiliate, New York State United Teachers.

Only a handful of start-up charter schools in the state have explicitly chosen to be unionized, said Peter Murphy, the policy director for the New York Charter Schools Association. All charters that convert from regular public schools are unionized, based on state law, as well as any start-up charters with more than 250 students.

Testifying before a joint Assembly-Senate hearing this month, a top official with the state union said he believes the state’s charter schools have not proved themselves.

“We cannot stand by idly while the governor dramatically expands the unproven charter school experiment,” said Alan B. Lubin, the union’s executive vice president. “[C]harter schools have not distinguished themselves from public schools in terms of innovative technique, or by raising the level of achievement on state assessments.”

He also objected to the way charters are funded, saying they place a “heavy financial burden on the local school district taxpayer,” and called for major changes to charter finance to address the situation. Mr. Lubin suggested an alternative approach for opening new charters, with a cap tied to local enrollment and local budgets.

For its part, the United Federation of Teachers in New York City recently indicated that it would agree to an increase in the city’s cap if the rules for organizing unions in charter schools were changed.

The union is advocating what’s called a “card check.” Under this approach, if a union collects signed “authorization cards” from a majority of employees, the employer would be required to recognize the union in a collective bargaining unit without the use of a secret-ballot election. It also is calling for anti-retaliation rules that would protect employees who seek to organize teachers in a collective bargaining unit.

“We want to make sure our people are not retaliated against,” said Randi Weingarten, the UFT president.

But the union’s plans are likely to face staunch political resistance. Critics such as Mr. Murphy from the charter school group say giving up the secret ballot for a card check would corrupt the process.

“That is just rife for peer pressure, intimidation, and bullying,” he contended.

Vol. 25, Issue 24, Page 43

Published in Print: February 22, 2006, as Fight Over Charter Cap Erupts in Empire State
Related Stories
Web Resources
Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories





Sponsor Insights

Free Ebook: How to Implement a Coding Program in Schools

Successful Intervention Builds Student Success

Effective Ways to Support Students with Dyslexia

Stop cobbling together your EdTech

Integrate Science and ELA with Informational Text

Can self-efficacy impact growth for ELLs?

Disruptive Tech Integration for Meaningful Learning

Building Community for Social Good

5 Resources on the Power of Interoperability from Unified Edtech

New campaign for UN World Teachers Day

5 Game-Changers in Today’s Digital Learning Platforms

Hiding in Plain Sight - 7 Common Signs of Dyslexia in the Classroom

The research: Reading Benchmark Assessments

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

All Students Are Language Learners: The Imagine Learning Language Advantage™

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

How to Support All Students with Equitable Pathways

2019 K-12 Digital Content Report

3-D Learning & Assessment for K–5 Science

Climate Change, LGBTQ Issues, Politics & Race: Instructional Materials for Teaching Complex Topics

Closing the Science Achievement Gap

Evidence-based Coaching: Key Driver(s) of Scalable Improvement District-Wide

Advancing Literacy with Large Print

Research Sheds New Light on the Reading Brain

Tips for Supporting English Learners Through Personalized Approaches

Student Engagement Lessons from 3 Successful Districts

Response to Intervention Centered on Student Learning

The Nonnegotiable Attributes of Effective Feedback

SEE MORE Insights >