October 2017 Issue - New York State Certification, APPR/Teacher Evaluation
October 24, 2017

Unions sue to stop SUNY charters fake certification scheme

Author: By Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United

Asserting that the move sells out the state's most vulnerable children and creates a two-tiered certification system, NYSUT filed suit to stop the SUNY Charter Schools Committee from implementing illegal regulations that would "certify" teachers in some charter schools with just a month of instruction and a week of practice teaching.

The lawsuit filed in state Supreme Court in Manhattan charges that the committee exceeded its legal authority and usurped the role of the Legislature by adopting a new and less rigorous set of certification standards for some of the state's charter schools. The suit was filed on behalf of NYSUT, the United Federation of Teachers and two charter school teachers who are union members.

The suit contends the new rules would "significantly undercut the quality of teaching in SUNY-approved charter schools," and would create "an essentially fake certification process, one not valid for employment in New York's public school districts, other charter schools or the public schools of other states."

While charter networks are plagued by sky-high teacher turnover, NYSUT President Andy Pallotta noted that lowering the standards is wrong and only hurts children.

The new regulations, approved by the SUNY committee at its Oct. 11 meeting, would allow charter schools to self-certify their teachers with only 160 hours of classroom instruction and 40 hours of practice teaching. The regulations suggest but do not mandate that charter teachers complete a certification exam and have a bachelor's degree.

The lawsuit notes the regulations violate the Charter School Act, which specifically caps the number of uncertified teachers a charter school can employ. The suit also argues the committee violated the State Administrative Procedure Act because it did not submit a revised version of the regulations for public comment. The committee revised its original proposal that required only 30 hours of instruction after the union spoke out against the plan.

According to the State Education Department, charters have a nearly 40 percent annual turnover rate of teachers, versus a 14 percent rate for public schools. In some charters, more than half the teachers left from one school year to the next, making it difficult for the schools to maintain the required percentage of fully certified teachers for their faculties.