Thursday, December 14, 2006

It's My Charter and You're Fired If I Want To

It's very disappointing to read that charter proponents oppose card check for teachers. It tends to confirm some of my very worst suspicions about them--that they can be, or aspire to be blatant union-busters. The only reason to oppose card check is to prevent unionization, and opponents neither have nor offer any other rationale.

Card check is an easy method for working people to decide whether or not they wish to be unionized, without being intimidated by employers. Workers have an absolute right to join unions. It isn't always prudent to risk your job to preserve your rights. Can you imagine going against a monolith like Wal-Mart by yourself? They've closed entire departments and stores rather than admit unions.

Anyone thinks NYC charter leaders won't intimidate teachers is unfamiliar with the story of Nicole Byrne Lau, who received universally excellent ratings until she started telling her colleagues how much UFT teachers were paid. Suddenly, she was denounced in the press as a child-hating racist, though there was no evidence whatsoever to support this claim.

Governor Pataki (whom the UFT supported against public school supporter Carl McCall) is now involved in a complicated dance to raise the charter cap. Few people seem to know that the last bill to raise the charter cap entitled Mayor Bloomberg to convert existing schools into charters without parental consent (or that this option existed only in NYC). For more info, read Class Size Matters' position paper on charters. Will the new bill include that clause?

The Unity-New Action gang is obliged to support charters since they're the brainchild of Albert Shanker, the forward-thinking fellow who tossed people out of the Unity Caucus for opposing the Vietnam war. While he also made positive steps, I won't be placing his statue on my dashboard anytime soon.

I like the idea of innovative small schools. I like the idea of alternatives. I placed my daughter in an excellent program at her public school that's got her fully fluent in Spanish at age 10.

But I do not support diverting further resources of what was once a state-of-the-art school system, and it's high time to reverse over thirty years of systematic neglect. Let's fix the system for NYC's 1.1 million kids before we invest in charters. Let's serve the many before the few. We can start by emulating excellent schools just east of the Nassau border, which rely on neither charters, vouchers, merit pay, nor intergalactic recruitment.

And let's stop chipping away at unionism, because one day the kids we raise and teach will have to work too.
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