Eduwonk Exclusive: NYC Cap Action…Is Randi Weingarten Doing NY Gov. Pataki’s Job, Too?

Where is Joe Williams when you need him? Regular readers will recall that a few weeks ago I was pointing out that reform teachers’ union leaders have a tough job. Turns out, I didn’t know the half of it. Sometimes, apparently, they have to do two jobs.

There is an ongoing debate in New York about lifting the state’s cap on charter schools which is keeping promising charter schools at bay. For my part, I’d been wondering how NY Governor George Pataki had pretensions about leading the free world when he can’t even bring a few recalcitrant state legislators into line to do something as obvious as raising the arbitrary cap on charter schools despite their obvious popularity in the state. (File that one under Republicans talk a great game about education reform but are often quite useless when the action starts).

Turns out though that Pataki may not have to do the work because the word on the NY edustreet, confirmed late today by someone in a position to know is that UFT head Randi Weingarten and NYCSA head Bill Phillips are quietly having face-to-face discussions about a cap-raising deal, one today at UFT headquarters. That’s very significant, and not only because NY taxpayers should expect some savings from this obviously useful outsourcing initiative since Weingarten and Phillips are now apparently doing what the governor should have been.

It’s significant because in case Weingarten isn’t already in enough hot water over her charter school initiative within the teachers’ union establishment, she’s really going out on a limb here. Rather than an expansion, a lot of folks in that camp want an all out jihad to end this whole charter business now. And, any deal would be a big boon to NYC schools chief Joel Klein who wants more charter schools in the city since he has these crazy ideas about how things could be going better there for kids…but there is a vocal part of Weingarten’s union that thinks that Klein is just like Franco, but without the compassion, and views this all as a big zero-sum game. And for his part Phillips is taking a risk, too, since he has a no-concessions at any cost element to deal with also and will be held accountable if this gambit blows-up. And, substantively it’s significant because lifting NY’s cap makes a lot of sense, it’s arbitrary and is standing between creating more good public schools for kids and an indefensible status quo.

I hear that more talks are planned and that the whole thing is serious enough that Leo Casey is already researching the most appropriate and grand historical comparisons to turn loose on Edwize in the event of a deal. So if you’re into charters or interesting politics, keep an eye on Gotham. Disc: I’m on the NYCSA board of directors but this tidbit actually came through another channel.

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