Alan Maisel

New York

UFT recommendations add fuel to the charter school debate fire

A list of proposals being pushed by the city teachers union to overhaul state charter school laws could shape the imminent debate over how and when to raise the charter school cap. The proposals, which conclude a UFT report on charter school demographics, are intended to force charter schools to open their doors to the same populations served by district schools, which would mean enrolling larger numbers of English language learners and students with special needs. In the days leading up to January 19, the deadline for states' applications to the federal Race to the Top competition, the union's proposals could become bargaining chips for legislators hesitant to raise the charter cap without requiring significant changes in the way state charter schools are run. Flanked by legislators from both houses at UFT headquarters in lower Manhattan on Sunday, union chief Michael Mulgrew called on Albany to, among other things, require charters to maintain student populations with similar demographics to the school districts in which they are located, centralize charter school admissions under the city or state education departments, cap the salaries of charter school administrators and ban charter schools from sharing space with district schools in New York City until the city has met its class size targets. Mulgrew and the lawmakers insisted that the changes would bring the state's charter schools closer to their original mission, as written in state law, to reduce educational inequities. "The original intent of the law was fairness and access for all students," Mulgrew said. "The way the law is written currently, we know that is not happening."
New York

Dukes asks Assembly to bite the mayor like that groundhog did

Hazel Dukes, president of the New York NAACP, urged Assembly members to make changes to mayoral control By now you know a bunch of the highlights from the big mayoral control hearing Friday. Diane Ravitch argued for taking power away from the mayor, the administration argued for keeping it, and some students summed the whole thing up pretty nicely. But there were other highlights, too, that I didn't go over Friday. Here's a rundown: New York NAACP President Hazel Dukes charged the Bloomberg administration with over-stating its civil rights accomplishments. "Despite repeated claims, the achievement gap has not diminished in any grades or subjects since this administration came to office," she said. Dukes also advised Assembly members to carve into the mayor's control of the schools by adding checks and balances to the power of the mayor and chancellor. "You got to put the teeth in now, and when they don't do it, just like that groundhog did the other day, you're going to have to bite," she said. "We need to make sure that no man, not any man in this city or woman can just have all the power about our children." Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell, whose sister is the famous TV personality Rosie O'Donnell, criticized the Bloomberg administration for having too few educators control education policy. He described a meeting with a senior education policy aide to the mayor. When O'Donnell asked about her background, the adviser said she went to school, became a lawyer, and has siblings who are educators. "My sister used to have a very famous talk show, but that doesn't make me qualified to be an executive at NBC," O'Donnell said.