while performing Hyde in state Capitol
The Buffalo News editorial board on Sunday weighed in on the issue of the New York State United Teachers agenda for unionizing teachers at charter schools (here), and admonished that the union's effort could turn charters into the kind of district schools from which charter parents removed their children.
The editorial presents both sides of the issue by mentioning the claim of NYSUT president, Richard Iannuzzi, that teachers need a "voice" at any school; and my own concern about NYSUT's conflict of interest in vacuuming union dues from charter school teachers while fighting against their schools' funding.
NYSUT's "Jekyll and Hyde" routine toward charter schools cannot be overstated. As The Chalkboard has posted numerous times (e.g., here): NYSUT advocated less funding for charter schools for this year, costing them nearly $50 million statewide, including more than $10 million for charter schools--and their teachers--in Buffalo.
And, the teachers union has been stone silent on Gov. Paterson's proposal to retain the funding freeze into next year which, if enacted, means that charter schools in 2010-11 will have to survive on funding levels from two years prior, in 2008-09. No school district is required to cope with funding levels from two years ago.
So much for that teachers "voice" from NYSUT.
The union is mute on this funding cut these days and it's no surprise: they are the reason for the legislative tampering of the charter funding formula in the first place. In fact, the only NYSUT "voice" you hear in the halls of the state Capitol is to undercut charter schools, most recently with its attempt to cripple them in the proposed Race to the Top legislation that nearly passed the state legislature last month.
Would the Source of Charter Funding Matter?
Mr. Iannuzzi claims that what's needed is a separate, state financed formula for charter schools, rather than the existing means with the school district paying the charter school. Amazingly, with this excuse, he is confirming his own Jekyll & Hyde conflict of interest by unionzing charters while simultaeously opposing more resources for them.
In fact, changing the source of funding does not remove NYSUT's conflict of interest.
First, school districts receive state aid on every resident student enrolled in a charter school since those students count as school district enrollment to generate state school aid. If there was a separate, state-financed charter fund, the school district's enrollment would decline accordingly by removing the count of charter students, leading to a drop in school aid for those districts. No one should spin themselves into thinking the state would hold harmless districts like Buffalo. If the state pays directly for charter schools, it's not going to also pay the school district for charter students, especially these days.
Second, more than any other school district, Buffalo makes money on charter schools because its state funding ratio is so lopsided in the district's favor that it gets more in state aid per charter student than it pays to the charter school.
Finally, NYSUT's conflict of interest would not end if the state funded charters directly. NYSUT would continue to advocate for more aid for school districts where its membership is employed at the expense of state funding for every other program, including charter schools. NYSUT already has done so for this reason; why would the union behave any differently?
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