Teaching Profession Reporter's Notebook

UFT Head Tells Charter Leaders: Teachers’ Unions Are Not Your Foe

November 01, 2005 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The head of the New York City teachers’ union told a gathering of charter school leaders meeting here last week that, despite perceptions to the contrary, unions are not the enemy of charter schools.

BRIC ARCHIVE

“The [American Federation of Teachers] does not have a position that all charter schools are bad,” said Randi Weingarten, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the national union.

“If there’s one thing that I can get through to the people here, … [it’s that] we are in this together in terms of educating all kids,” she told some 400 participants at the Oct. 24-25 conference, hosted by the Alexandria, Va.-based National Association of Charter School Authorizers. “Public school choice was never an issue that we didn’t embrace.”

But, Ms. Weingarten said: “Choice in and of itself is not sufficient. … The real issue is the quality of the schools.”

She noted that the UFT opened a new charter school in New York City this fall, and plans to start another next year.

She said some 600 teachers applied for 15 slots at the first one, an elementary campus.

“This is quite a risk for a teachers’ union to take,” she said of its foray into public but largely autonomous schooling. “We wanted to prove the point that teachers are as concerned about the education of our children … as anybody else.”

Also on the panel, Paul T. Hill, the director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education, located at the University of Washington in Seattle, applauded the efforts of Ms. Weingarten, even while suggesting many unions have a decidedly more hostile attitude toward charters.

“Imagine where we’d be today … if all unions around the country” took the approach of Ms. Weingarten, he said.

Later that day, Alan D. Bersin, California’s secretary of education and a former district superintendent in San Diego, said charter schools “must capture more of the market” for public education.

That’s exactly what’s happening in California. The California Charter Schools Association recently announced that compared with the 2004-05 school year, charter enrollment has climbed by about 18 percent.

“The problem is that it’s still only 3 percent of the action,” Mr. Bersin said, arguing that until charters get better “market penetration,” the nation will not see the acceleration in student achievement that it needs. The goal, he said, ought to be having a fifth to a quarter of public schools operating as charters.

Mr. Bersin said the federal No Child Left Behind Act presents “a huge opportunity for charter expansion.” Under the law, public schools that fail to make adequate yearly progress eventually enter a category in which one option for corrective action is to convert to charter status.

But Mr. Bersin also cautioned that, “to the extent that this is something that is imposed on a neighborhood, a community, it will not have traction.”

A senior U.S. Department of Education official, meanwhile, noted that President Bush’s budget request for fiscal 2006—on which Congress has yet to take final action—calls for $256 million explicitly for charter school programs.

Nina Shokraii Rees, who leads the office of innovation and improvement, highlighted a recent $21 million grant the agency delivered to Louisiana officials after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita “to help them build charters,” some of which are slated to open in January. “We’ve never given a grant of this size as fast as we have [here],” she said.

Still, Ms. Rees said, “It shouldn’t take a hurricane … to go into a community that needs help and expand the number of quality public schools.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the November 02, 2005 edition of Education Week

Events

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.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Working Smarter, Not Harder with Data
There is a new paradigm shift in K-12 education. Technology and data have leapt forward, advancing in ways that allow educators to better support students while also maximizing their most precious resource – time. The
Content provided by PowerSchool
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.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Deepen the Reach and Impact of Your Leadership
This webinar offers new and veteran leaders a unique opportunity to listen and interact with four of the most influential educational thinkers in North America. With their expert insights, you will learn the key elements
Content provided by Solution Tree
Science K-12 Essentials Forum Teaching Science Today: Challenges and Solutions
Join this event which will tackle handling controversy in the classroom, and making science education relevant for all students.

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 What Happens When Teachers Are Out of Sick Days?
We asked EdWeek's social media followers to share their school policies on COVID-related sick leave. Here’s how they responded. 
Marina Whiteleather
2 min read
Female at desk, suffering from flu symptoms like fever, headache and sore throat at her workplace
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Teaching Profession Explainer: Why Are Chicago Schools, Teachers' Union Fighting?
The issue that caused the most chaos in the roughly 350,000-student district was when and how to revert to remote learning.
3 min read
Members of the Chicago Teachers Union and supporters stage a car caravan protest outside City Hall in the Loop, Wednesday evening, Jan. 5, 2022. Chicago school leaders canceled classes in the nation’s third-largest school district for the second straight day after failing to reach an agreement with the teachers union over remote learning and other COVID-19 safety protocols. (Ashlee Rezin /Chicago Sun-Times via AP)
Teaching Profession Some Teachers Are Running Out of Sick Days, and Administrators Are Hesitant to Help
With a shortage of substitutes and pressure to stay open, administrators are reluctant to extend paid time off for teachers with COVID.
13 min read
Professional male social distancing or self quarantining inside a coronavirus pathogen.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Teaching Profession Opinion 18 Ways to Improve Teacher Observations
Holding pre- and post-conferences, showing more compassion and less judgment, and organizing peer observations are valuable.
19 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty