N.Y. union suddenly understands the need to provide space for charter schools

Mar 2, 2013 by

NEW YORK – Leaders of the United Federation of Teachers – New York City’s teachers union – have been the leading critics of a city policy that allows charter schools to share building space with government-run schools.

The space-sharing rule has been a lifeline for charters that might otherwise be frozen out of the Big Apple’s pricey real estate market.

That’s why the UFT has opposed the idea of “co-locations” – if charter schools can’t find space, they can’t compete for students.

But suddenly the union finds itself on the other side of this fight.

GothamSchools.org reports that a UFT-operated charter school is horning in on the building space used by J.H.S. 292, a 750-student public school that specializes in the arts.

Under the plan, the traditional public school “would give up 21 of its 50 full-size classrooms to the incoming charter (middle) school,” the news site reports. “The UFT Charter School’s elementary grades already operate in the building.”

J.H.S. 292 officials fear the charter school invasion will compromise the quality of their performing arts programs.

“It’s like you have this house where you use up every square inch of space and then you have to give up half that space to a school that really doesn’t deserve it,” said Jennifer Barrett, coordinator of  J.H.S. 292′s performing arts programs, according to GothamSchools.org.

J.H.S. 292’s students, teachers and administrators “are vehemently against the plan and are organizing to reverse it,” the news site reports.

Some students were assigned by their teachers to write about why they opposed the merger. Those letters were then sent to city leaders.

That’s an old teacher union trick for injecting politics into the classroom, and it’s deliciously ironic to some that UFT teachers are now using that tactic to fight their own union.

J.H.S 292 Principal Gloria Williams Nandan made light of the union’s awkward position at a recent public hearing.

“Come September, our teachers will lose their classrooms and there begins their dilemma, for when our teachers are kicked out of their classrooms, to whom will they turn?” Williams Nandan asked. “Their union? Oops, sorry – it’s (the union’s) school that would have taken over their classrooms.”

There’s one more twist to the story.

The UFT’s charter middle school has been plagued by years of low test scores and financial problems.

The main reason city officials signed off on this space-sharing plan is because UFT officials argued that putting their elementary and middle schools under the same roof will foster collaboration among the teaching staff and lead to better student achievement.

The city’s education officials approved the plan, but reminded the UFT that its middle school “faces an automatic ‘death penalty’ in 2015 if academic performance doesn’t improve,” GothamSchools.org reports.

N.Y. union suddenly understands the need to provide space for charter schools – EAGnews.org :: Education Research, Reporting, Analysis and Commentary.

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