January 05, 2010

Why charter school law needs reform

Source: NYSUT Media Relations
  • UPDATE 1/7: Gov. Paterson has submitted Program Bill 214 to the Legislature to propose eliminating the cap on the number of charter schools in New York state.


Albany, NY - New York State United Teachers today called for reforms to New York's charter school law, saying it is time to retool it to provide greater accountability for student results and taxpayer dollars. The law also needs to be changed, NYSUT said, to ensure that charter operators fairly serve all students, including English language learners and students with disabilities, and to provide reliable information on student achievement that can strengthen public education for all children.

According to NYSUT: "Transparency of charter results, resources and practices is essential to inform policy and strengthen public education." NYSUT represents teachers in charter schools and regular public schools across New York state.

NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi said any move to raise the state's cap is premature unless the Legislature approves reforms, including:

  • Requiring charter schools to provide detailed and reliable information that documents innovative and structural change leading to significant progress in student achievement;
  • requiring that charter operators serve at least district-wide averages of needy students, including students with disabilities and English language learners;
  • ending the practice of for-profit operation that enriches operators at the expense of student services;
  • fixing the funding formula to ensure charter and regular public schools be treated fairly;
  • preventing over saturation that harms existing charter and regular public schools; and
  • requiring charter school board members and operators to meet the same financial disclosure requirements, conflict-of-interest rules and audit requirements as other public officials.

"Not all charter schools are created equal," Iannuzzi said. "With 10 years of charter experience to draw upon, it's essential for the state to identify the components of quality charter schools and regular public schools serving the same student populations, and share the successful educational practices that can be replicated for all students. To do that, we need reliable information on student enrollment, charter-operator spending and profits. That is just common sense - good for students, educators and taxpayers.

"The public should have the right to know how their tax dollars are being spent in charter schools, including how much goes to for-profit operators who manage some of these schools," he said.

NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta noted NYSUT is working closely with state and federal officials to maximize New York's standing in its application for Race to the Top funding, a process that has sparked debate about the state's charter school law.

"Fixing the way charter schools are funded is essential so that it is fair to charter schools and regular public schools," said Pallotta. He added that is of particular concern in Albany and Buffalo, where there is a high concentration of charters, and that the law needs to be fixed to provide the support those districts need.

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.


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