We appreciate the Senator recognizing "legitimate concerns" of charter school advocates, as she's quoted in the story.
In addition to the mandatory unionization, this bill would require all charter schools to be part of the public employee retirement systems which their school district employees are part, and also would require respective school district collective bargaining contracts imposed on all charters, the way they are for charters that converted from district schools.
The reason for my comments in this story is that this bill would be "crippling" to charter schools, is because it imposes a who new set of high-cost mandates to conform charters to district schools, even as charters get 30 percent less funding. Charter schools are suppose to be free of the regulatory and statutory structure imposed on district schools in exchange for a rigorous accountability system that demands higher student academic outcomes that are measurable during a limited contract period, that is, the five-year charter.
Seeking Charter Death By A Thousand Cuts
Before the ink was dry on the New York Charter Schools Act of 1998, the state legislature in 1999 passed a similar bill to impose unions on all charter schools. This bill was vetoed by then-Gov. George Pataki, who was not about to re-write legislation he just negotiated a couple months prior (and already made concessions on regarding unionization and teacher certification, for example).
Legislation of this type has floated around the legislature ever since, with Sen. Savino's bill just the latest example. Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, the Chairwoman of the Education Committee, had introduced this bill earlier in the current 2009 legislative session.
The Charter Schools Act underwent several revisions in 2007 when the cap on new charter schools was doubled. The labor unions, including NYSUT and UFT, tried unsuccessfully to stop the cap lift but did get some changes in their favor, including mandatory unionization of all employees, not just teachers, in any charter school with more than 250 students in the first two years of the school, thus adding a year to this part of the statute.
Current Law Has Proven Effective
The bottom line is the New York Charter Schools Act has proven effective for students by raising achievement levels and providing a real public educational choice for parents, especially households with limited financial means. This year's state test results for English language arts are the latest evidence showing the vast majority of charters outperforming their respective school district and community school district averages.
It's long past time for state legislators to stop trying to squash this successful public education movement with proposals that only make the job of a charter school more difficult and more costly. Fending off these proposals has kept the New York Charter Schools Association busy over the years, I can attest. Charter schools and their employees should be allowed to continue to decide for themselves if they want a union (about 1 in 5 have done so), what their contracts should include, and whether they should offer and can afford the defined benefit public employee retirement plan (which many charters have done).
A better use of everyone's time is for policymakers to consider improvements to the Charter Schools Act that would serve the educational interests of children, rather than do them harm and put their school's viability at risk.
for The Chalkboard
Disclaimer: The Chalkboard is hosted by the New York Charter Schools Association (NYCSA) as a place where members, public education advocates and others can view and respond to informed commentary on timely public education and charter school issues. The views expressed here are not necessarily the official views of the NYCSA, its board, or of any of its individual charter school members. Anyone who claims otherwise is violating the spirit and purpose of this blog. To comment on anything you read here, or to offer tips, advice, comments, or complaints. please contact TheChalkboard.