So, at the risk of setting off a Carey-like firestorm, a lot of people seem to want to know what I think about the charter cap deal in New York, in particular the provision about schools with more than 250 kids in their first two years automatically being unionized. So here goes. I’m for the cap lift, natch. 100 schools was an arbitrary limit and was far outstripped by parental demand. I’m not for a complete charter free-for-all but any restrictions should be reasonably related to broader policy goals like quality, not simply about protecting the traditional public schools from competition in the form of new public schools. The new cap of 200 is at least a start.
On this union rule, it’s arbitrary, too. A school with 239 kids doesn’t need a union and one with 253 does? Based on what? Rather, I think that if teachers want to be part of a union then they should, whether it’s a school with 25 kids or 2,500. Choice should mean choice (and real choice, not coerced one way or the other) and what this new provision does, in an arbitrary way, is take that choice away from teachers in schools with more than 250 kids. It’s silly and has nothing to do with creating positive and deliberate educational communities for kids. In fact, I think that teachers’ unions will regret they day they went down this road because it turns the unionization question into one of numbers instead of desire. Not a way for the labor movement to thrive over time.
For more, Joe Williams is blogging up a storm about the deal.
Disclosures and miscellany: I’m on the board of the New York Charter School Association (a board, I’ll add, is majority Democratic despite some pathetic hysterics from people who are smart enough to know better). For more reading, here and here (pdf) are two pubs I worked on about charter schools and teachers’ unions that have much more about the broader issues. And, if you’re lazy, here’s a PowerPoint with the headlines.