Misdirection Play In New York

This post on Edwize caught Eduwonk’s eye because at a discussion recently in Denver, UFT honcho Randi Weingarten said she’d support raising the cap on charters (and also that they deserved equal funding with other public schools) as long as teachers in charters were allowed to unionize. This latter issue struck Eduwonk as odd at the time because New York law already allows workers to organize now and seemed as though if there were any question about whether this applied to charters it could be put to rest with clear language about current law in any cap-raising legislation. In other words it seemed like an easily accommodated provision. In New York currently any charter school found to be violating workers rights or retaliating against union organizers can – and in Eduwonk’s opinion should – have its charter revoked.

And it turns out it was odd…because as is often the case in edupolicy/politics, there is more here than meets the eye. Edwize’s Casey is exactly right that a lot of people on the right talk out of both sides of their mouth about choice when it comes to workers being able to choose to organize but that’s really not the issue here because, again, current New York law does give teachers in charters the right to organize.

Rather, the UFT doesn’t want current law which requires secret ballot votes on decisions about whether or not the faculty at a school should form a union. Instead, the UFT wants to require public votes among teachers about whether to organize. Why? Well, peer pressure isn’t just for kids. So rather than ensuring equal rights, what the UFT is really seeking are special rules for charter schools.

What’s troubling is that there are rumors of a side deal having being cut (perhaps linked to the recent contract deal) here where the cap is lifted only for New York City in exchange for the UFT’s new charter organizing proposal. For everyone except the immediate parties to such a deal it’s a lose-lose arrangement. It would screw kids in Buffalo, Rochester, and a host of other places and splitting the statewide charter coalition would be a big coup for charter school foes. In addition, while teachers in charter schools should be able to organize like other workers, the case has not been made about why the current labor policies are inadequate to the task and special measures are necessary.

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