WASHINGTON, D.C., April 30, 2010 - New York State United Teachers today slammed state Senate Democrats for maneuvering to lift the cap on charter schools without insisting on reforms to ensure all children are fairly served and to provide greater accountability and transparency for public tax dollars.
Upon hearing the Senate had tentatively planned a vote on the charter cap Monday (S.7678), thousands of delegates to the union's annual convention pulled out their cell phones to deliver the message that each senator's vote on the charter cap would be scrutinized at NYSUT's endorsement conference in August.
"Calling it a one-house bill is not acceptable. That excuse won't work anymore," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi, who rallied delegates to deliver a message to senators in both parties that if they want the union's support - and the support of thousands of campaign volunteers this fall - they must adopt commonsense reforms to the state's Charter School Act before lifting the cap.
NYSUT released a report this week - available at www.nysut.org - that documented how some charter operators are under-serving special education students and English language learners, and discharging students with behavioral problems. NYSUT said the disparate student populations in charters and regular public schools undermine the reliability of test score comparisons, and fly in the face of the charter mission to serve students "most at risk of failure."
In addition, NYSUT's report - "A $2 Billion Decision" - documented instances of misallocation of funds; ethical lapses; conflicts of interest; and awarding of contracts to companies controlled by charter operators as evidence that stricter financial oversight is needed.
NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta said the union's goal is "not to sink charter schools, but to reform the law to ensure greater accountability and transparency. Charter operators that are above-board have nothing to fear from accountability, but the law must also protect against those who are gaming the system and profiting off the backs of children.
"NYSUT represents teachers in both charter and regular public schools. We need to ensure fair funding for all public schools, and will continue to challenge charter management on practices that fail to serve students, " he said.
NYSUT, the state's largest union, represents more than 600,000 teachers, school-related professionals, academic and professional faculty in higher education, professionals in education and health care and retirees. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.