In this New York Post op-ed, NECSN CEO Kyle Rosenkrans responds to AFT President Randi Weingarten and Mayor Bill de Blasio touting the city's new PROSE schools as innovative public schools that are better than charters.
How nice it was to read American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten gushing the other day about some innovative public schools in New York City that are using their flexibility from bureaucratic rules to better serve their students.
It almost sounded like she was talking about charter schools. So I rubbed my eyes to see if I was reading it right.
Then I saw the same sort of gushy language coming from Mayor de Blasio. I found a cardiologist’s number just in case I was on the verge of a heart attack.
Could they both — finally — be acknowledging charter schools for all the good they’ve been doing in New York City all these years? Could the world be turning upside down?
Maybe two-thirds of the anti-school-choice troika (United Federation of Teachers President Mike Mulgrew is the third) were coming around.
But no, reality being reality, they weren’t. What they were gushing about was something very charter-like though.
It’s the new PROSE (Progressive Redesign Opportunity for Schools of Excellence) program.
These schools are basically replicas of the charter model. The city schools that apply and are chosen for this program are allowed to innovate and collaborate with other schools — and are given some flexibility from their union rules — to find the best possible ways to help their students learn.
But there is one big exception — unlike charters, which are formed and operate independently of City Hall and, in almost all cases, the teachers unions, City Hall and the unions control the PROSE schools.
So that’s it! Weingarten and de Blasio don’t oppose educational innovation and flexibility. They’re just against innovation and flexibility they can’t control.
They oppose schools where they don’t get to dictate every work rule, don’t get to determine every piece of classroom instruction and don’t get to protect teachers who shouldn’t be teaching.
It’s not really about education, then. It’s about control — top down, contractually mandated control. Put another way, “We’re fine with innovation, as long as it’s our innovation. We’re good with bureaucratic flexibility, as long as we say it’s OK. And anybody who tries to do this without approval shall face our wrath!”
This is progress?
They say PROSE schools will be better than charters because they won’t create competition with city-run schools. Well, if there’s anybody not on the unions’ payroll who thinks PROSE schools would even exist if charters hadn’t created competition, there’s a bridge not far from City Hall I’d like to sell them.
Weingarten and de Blasio also think their PROSE schools will show that families don’t need charter schools.
Really? New York City has 50,000 kids on charter-school waiting lists. Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature lifted the charter cap in New York City because they heard parents and are helping them and their children.
Well, Weingarten and de Blasio say, PROSE schools will share what they’re learning and doing right.
Charters already do that — and if the unions and City Hall haven’t heard, it’s because they won’t listen.
Bronx Charter School for Excellence and other high performers have been awarded state grants to use for charter-district collaboration.
Bronx Excellence already works with local city schools. Uncommon Schools, which operates numerous schools in the city, hosts district-charter collaborative professional development days.
Charters’ best practices are no secret — longer school days, longer school years, operational flexibility and more.
We hope PROSE schools succeed beyond everyone’s wildest dreams. That would be great for children, their families and the city’s future.
And we’re glad the city is taking this step.
But as we’ve all seen with the recent Uber controversy, people want more effective choices, not fewer. And they don’t want to be told where, when and how their choices can be exercised.
In the meantime, like Uber, charters aren’t going anywhere. And thanks to Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature, we can have more of them in New York City.
Kyle Rosenkrans is CEO of the Northeast Charter Schools Network, a membership association of charter schools in New York and Connecticut.
This op-ed originally appeared on the New York Post