Teaching Profession

N.Y.C. Teachers’ Union Moves to Open 2 Charter Schools

By Caroline Hendrie — February 15, 2005 2 min read

Who says that big-city teachers’ contracts are obstacles to reform? Certainly not the United Federation of Teachers, and to prove it, the union representing New York City’s public school teachers last week moved ahead with plans to open its own charter schools.

The 100,000-member affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers will submit applications to the State University of New York for charters to open an elementary school serving grades K-5 next fall and a secondary school for grades 6-12 in September 2006.

After months of planning and often-contentious internal debate, union leaders said last week that they decided to go forward with the idea to reclaim a vision of charter schooling advanced by Albert Shanker, the late president of both the UFT and the AFT. His concept of schools led by unionized teachers free from “stifling bureaucracy and stifling micromanagement” is at odds with how charter schooling has evolved in the years since, UFT President Randi Weingarten contended last week.

“The idea has been adopted by many people who oppose public schools, who oppose teachers’ unions,” she said.

The UFT initiative has been criticized by some charter advocates as hypocritical, given the push by the parent union for a national moratorium on charter schools and the push by the union’s New York state affiliate to keep charters there capped at 100. But Ms. Weingarten, a member of the board of directors of the state affiliate, said she saw no inconsistency.

Ms. Weingarten took several swipes at the administration of New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein as she discussed the charter proposals at a news conference last week. Suggesting that teachers get little say in classroom instruction in the city, she called it ironic that the union had to turn to the chartering process to take advantage of “bottom-up thinking.”

Keeping the Contract

If approved by the university, the two charter schools would operate under the provisions of the districtwide contract that the UFT negotiates with the 1.1 million-student district, and teachers would be organized as UFT chapters.

“Within the parameters of the contract, there are huge numbers of things that can be done,” said Michelle Bodden, a UFT vice president. The schools would show that district officials are wrong to “demonize” the contract as an obstacle to school improvement, she added.

For example, the schools would limit class sizes to 25, and classrooms in grades K-3 would have two teachers each. That staffing arrangement would be made possible by forgoing some administrative spending, union officials said.

As for facilities, the elementary school would have rent-free space in an underused, district-run middle school, while the site for the secondary school has yet to be identified. Both schools would be located in a disadvantaged community of Brooklyn.

A board of trustees—made up of UFT staff members, school employees, parents, community representatives, and the “school leader”—would govern each school. That leader would not have the title of principal, Ms. Weingarten said, to signal what the union hopes will be a highly collaborative labor-management arrangement.

Asked whether the city’s principals’ union would represent that leader, Ms. Weingarten said that the question had generated “a really interesting conversation” within the UFT. In the end, she said, members decided that it would be the right thing to do.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the February 16, 2005 edition of Education Week as N.Y.C. Teachers’ Union Moves to Open 2 Charter Schools


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Classroom Technology Webinar
Educator-Driven EdTech Design: Help Shape the Future of Classroom Technology
Join us for a collaborative workshop where you will get a live demo of GoGuardian Teacher, including seamless new integrations with Google Classroom, and participate in an interactive design exercise building a feature based on
Content provided by GoGuardian
School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: What Did We Learn About Schooling Models This Year?
After a year of living with the pandemic, what schooling models might we turn to as we look ahead to improve the student learning experience? Could year-round schooling be one of them? What about online
School & District Management Webinar What's Ahead for Hybrid Learning: Putting Best Practices in Motion
It’s safe to say hybrid learning—a mix of in-person and remote instruction that evolved quickly during the pandemic—is probably here to stay in K-12 education to some extent. That is the case even though increasing

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession Opinion What Can We Do to Help the Well-Being of Teachers?
A Seat at the Table focused on the social-emotional well-being of teachers during the pandemic. Here's what we learned from the guests.
1 min read
Sera   FCG
Teaching Profession Nearly 9 in 10 Teachers Willing to Work in Schools Once Vaccinated, Survey Finds
Nearly half of educators who belong to the National Education Association have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
4 min read
Nurse Sara Muela, left, administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site setup for teachers and school staff at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa., on March 15, 2021.
Nurse Sara Muela, left, administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site set up for teachers and school staff in Reading, Pa., on March 15.
Matt Rourke/AP
Teaching Profession Q&A Nation's Top Teachers Discuss the Post-Pandemic Future of the Profession
Despite the difficulties this school year brought, the four finalists for the National Teacher of the Year award say they're hopeful.
11 min read
National Teacher of the Year Finalists (clockwise from top left): Alejandro Diasgranados, Juliana Urtubey, John Arthur, Maureen Stover
National Teacher of the Year Finalists (clockwise from top left): Alejandro Diasgranados, Juliana Urtubey, John Arthur, Maureen Stover
Courtesy of CCSSO
Teaching Profession Teachers Are Stressed Out, and It's Causing Some to Quit
Stress, more so than low pay, is the main reason public school teachers quit. And COVID-19 has increased the pressure.
7 min read
Image of exit doors.