Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Charter Schools in NYC: A Microcosm of Education in Large American Cities


UFT rips charter schools on lack of inclusion of high-needs students, based on new union report.

This headline in the NY Daily News once again illustrates the obstacles faced by any attempt at reforming the decaying public school system in New York City, and the irresponsible lack of concern of the UFT for any educational reform that is not within the grasp of its tentacles.

In a press conference UFT President Michael Mulgrew offered the following data to substantiate his claims:

• In the South Bronx, 62% of charter school students are poor enough to qualify for free lunch, compared with 87% in the district public schools.

• About 9% of students in South Bronx charters aren't fluent in English, compared with 22% in local public schools.

• In central Brooklyn, 55% of students are poor enough to qualify for free lunch, compared with 80% in the district public schools.

• About 1% of students in charters in central Brooklyn aren't fluent in English, compared with 11% in nearby public schools.
If these numbers are correct, why is the UFT not demanding that charter schools enroll more poor, special education students and students with limited English proficiency? Many charter schools principals and educational leaders agree to the equalization of numbers. However, this will not satisfy the UFT whose real complain is that many charter schools are not unionized.

The reason for this press conference was an attempt to push politicians not to vote for the elimination the state cap of 200 charter schools. This vote has to come before January 19, date of the deadline to apply for $700 million in competitive Race to the Top federal funds. Federal guidelines for the grant require no limit on charters, and charter advocates say New York State's 200-school cap puts it at a disadvantage

The fact is that education has never been at the forefront of the UFT demands. Over the last 40 years, any attempt to introduce educational reforms was stonewalled by the union. Reforms that would have required longer school days, a longer school year, additional preparation, better prepared teachers, firing of incompetent teachers, more substantial staff development were met with "It will not work," even before an attempt at experimentation was carried on. The few reforms introduced were cosmetic and designed to justify the increases in salaries of teachers.

Years ago when statistics demonstrated that private schools were producing much better educated students and had much better results in standardized tests, the UFT again used the canard that those schools skimmed, and took only the best kids. Cardinal O'Connor, then archbishop of New York, made an offer. Give one thousand of your worst students and lets place them in Catholic schools and look at the results. His offer was never accepted. Guess why?

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