UFT has not found the secret sauce. When charter schools showed up, it was important for leadership to show they knew better than anyone else. Turns out, though, that they didn't know diddly squat about how to run a high performing charter.
The way to make your charter great is to reach amazing test scores. You do this, of course, by selecting kids who already get amazing test scores. First, you place obstacles to entry, like a lottery, for example. After that, you make requirements for parents, like giving time to the school. That's pretty inconvenient. If I'm an indifferent parent who somehow won the lottery, I'm gonna send my kids right back to PS Whatever.
Then, of course, it's no excuses for the kids. If they act up, you can dress them up in prison orange and humiliate them. That's no problem, because charters aren't subject to chancellor's regs. Were I to treat a kid like that (and I wouldn't think of it), I'd be sitting in the principal's office facing A-420, corporal punishment. Of course, corporal punishment, verbal abuse, and all other such wonder is fine in charters. Zero tolerance is for the kids. Eva Moskowitz can spend enormous amounts of money dragging her little pawns to Albany to lobby for what they're told to lobby for, and that's tolerated from Governor Cuomo right on up to President Obama.
There is no magic. That's why charter bigshot Geoffrey Canada got to dump not one, but two cohorts in the quest for the Holy Grail that is test scores. In fact, you don't eradicate poverty, high-needs, or lack of English ability via good intentions. If your goal is to get test scores that make everyone jump up and pay heed, the only sure way is via being selective in enrollment. If you want to advertise that 100% of your grads go to four-year schools, all you need to do is dump every student who doesn't appear poised to meet that goal, even if that's two-thirds of your cohort. And that's been done repeatedly by charter-running publicity hounds.
While there's a big brouhaha over suspensions, over whether suspensions actually hurt kids, the only schools affected by it are public schools. And it turns out we don't suspend nearly as many kids as charters. They, of course, aren't subject to suspension requirements because they don't need no stinking rules. All they need is the freedom to use every tool at their disposal to get rid of kids who don't make them look good.
UFT leadership, to its credit, was not willing to play that game. But just like they did when they failed to allocate enough money to pay recent retirees, they played a weak chess game. They failed to look ahead. They failed to see what they charter movement was all about. They assumed it was somehow idealistic rather than a direct assault on public schools. And in the end they were unable to compete with their utterly unscrupulous privatizing colleagues.
Not only that, but they weakened our potential as a force for truth. By supporting charters, they failed to anticipate what the charter movement was about. By actually indulging in co-location, they made it very difficult for us to argue against it. And by actually failing, they gave our opponents ammunition to make the false argument that union contracts are an impediment to student achievement.
This is one more in a series of entirely predictable outcomes of living in an echo chamber and failing utterly to engage membership.
Related: EdNotes Online