The upshot of Mr. Iannuzzi's presentation yesterday is: there's too many charter schools, I don't want any more, but if they show up I want their money!
Significantly, Iannuzzi confirms that NYSUT is "aggressively seeking to unionize teachers" in the state's charter schools, even though he thinks there are too many (there are 140, not 130 as the article states). I remarked that in doing so, NYSUT has handed out highly deceptive campaign literature in charter school parking lots in Buffalo that provides half-baked information about its deliverables for teachers.
Charter school teachers should understand all the ramifications of unionizing before deciding to do so. That free choice should be respected and remain intact without the legislature mandating it as it does for district employees.
During an attempt to organize, teachers should examine both sides of the issue with both parties rather than just the union's side. Unionizing, for example, cannot protect you from losing your job if a charter school fails to win renewal. High student academic performance is the best job security for teachers and vapid union promises or stultifying contract provisions at variance with that must be avoided. Unfortunately, state law is stacked in favor of the union getting its message out while it handcuffs employers from countering those arguments in good faith. It's a joke.
Teachers also must ask the question, is NYSUT really working for me? Many union charter teachers were stunned to learn that NYSUT lobbied successfully to get the state legislature to cut 2009-10 school year funding for charters - and their dues subsidized this very effort. In fact, NYSUT has a financial interest in unionizing - it generates more money in their coffers -- yet charter schools and their faculty (union and non-union, alike) have $50 million less this year thanks to NYSUT's influence with lawmakers.
For many years I've watched NYSUT's lobbying in the state Capitol. It's never been in favor of charter schools. I hope that changes, but it's unlikely for the simple reason that charters are competition for district schools where most of NYSUT's members work. They will choose their interests in Albany over charters every time, with the most glaring example being the charter funding cut that districts were allowed to keep.
A test for NYSUT will be this: what will they do about proposed legislation to benefit charters that has no effect on a union's interest? So far, the signs are not encouraging on that front but I want to be open-minded and optimistic that a new day will dawn on this front.
Richard Iannuzzi also unleashes the classic anti-charter school strawman, saying NYSUT wants no part of those charter schools with "an anti-labor, anti-union ideology." Please. Got any names? An "anti-labor" charter school won't be opened very long since they wouldn't have anyone working there.
Iannuzzi takes this tact as his way of attacking all charter schools in general, simply because most are not dues-paying members of his organization. The reality is teachers have a pretty good arrangement already without having to pay the union to get them what they already have on their own.
"Saturation" of What?
Finally, Iannuzzi continues harping on the so-called "over-saturation" of charter schools in Buffalo, same as he does in Albany. The issue is not too many charter schools in either place; rather, its "over-saturation" of low-performing district schools that should close down, especially with so many families having pulled their children and enrolled them in charters.
Would Iannuzzi rather have fewer charters in order to keep more low-performing district schools? That is precisely the implication of what he's saying since his members work in those district schools. This isn't complicated.
for The Chalkboard
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