Charter School Founder OR Charter School $ Cutter?
Can these be the same people?
Randi Weingarten, the powerful head of the American Federation of Teachers and its largest local, the New York City United Federation of Teachers (UFT), wrote a February 18th letter to her City's charter school membership to quell a fledgling effort by some teachers to demand its union oppose cutting charter school funding.
Ms. Weingarten was asked by charter supporters to oppose the position of the UFT's state parent organization, the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), urging the state legislature to cut funding for charter schools if school aid to districts gets cut. Ms. Weingarten also happens to a board member of NYSUT, giving her a local, state and national union pedigree. (Very few persons can boast of having their fingers in all three major levels of government! In fact, no one else comes to mind.)
Several charter school teachers who are UFT and/or NYSUT members in New York City and Buffalo were preparing to hold a press conference to call on their union to stop its anti-charter efforts in the state Capitol and change its position on funding.
Since when in the last 30 years has a union come out in favor of cutting funding for schools with its own dues paying members? Unions naturally and insatiably demand more, never less, except when it comes to charter schools!
This effort by teachers was stopped by UFT and NYSUT union officials at the last minute, which avoided them being publicly put on the spot by their own membership.
Now, Randi Weingarten wasn't foolish enough to present such anti-charter school testimony to the legislature during its budget hearings last January 28th. That was the familiar role of NYSUT's Executive Vice President, Alan Lubin, who two years ago also vigorously opposed then-Gov. Spitzer's proposal to raise the cap on the number of charter schools.
Instead, Ms. Weingarten sent the verbose, rhetorical 10-paragraph letter to her charter faculty membership that unfortunately did nothing to retract the NYSUT position to cut charter funding. No separation from its state parent. No retraction.
It is disappointing that Ms. Weingarten refused to call out her state colleagues, even though it would have supported her charter school faculty who would be the victims of such unfair funding cuts. Union, after all, means never having to disagree, I guess.
On the positive side, Ms. Weingarten did acknowledge the financial pressures of charter schools and is "investigating ways to better match your schools pension obligation … to the profile of your faculty." Swell.
It's a start, but not enough.
The ongoing frustration is that nowhere does Ms. Weingarten acknowledge, even tacitly, that charters get one-third less funding than district schools, primarily due to lack of capital funds. This unfair funding inequity is reason alone for charter schools to be spared any funding formula reduction even if the state cuts school aid to districts.
Simply put: charters already get less funding; charters already are treated unequally from districts.
If school districts get state aid cuts, they will still get more funding than charter schools do on a per pupil basis (not to mention the extra millions of dollars from the federal Stimulus bill). And, districts have other large sources of funding, including local and federal revenues. Charters, by contrast, cannot levy taxes and get a tiny portion of their funds from Washington, primarily Title I monies.
If the charter formula is changed, it should be increased to give equal funding for charter schools, rather than less.
Randi Weingarten herself is the founder of the UFT charter school, authorized by the SUNY board to serve K-8 students at separate locations. As such, she has obvious savvy and outside-the-box behavior. This alone argues that she shouldn't tolerate the anti-charter positions of her Albany colleagues at NYSUT.
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