Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Charter Challenge

Here's part 1 of Casey's rant:


As the United Federation of Teachers heads toward our fiftieth anniversary in 2010, we find ourselves facing a challenge greater than any we confronted in the last half-century of our history. Our union has been tempered by many extraordinary struggles over these last five decades, but never have we seen what we are witnessing today: a direct assault on the public character of American education and on the very right of teachers to organize collectively in unions. While the UFT has withstood these attacks as well as any teacher union in the nation, it would be a serious mistake to look at developments in New Orleans and Washington DC and proclaim "it can not happen here." If we fail to grasp the critical nature of this moment and mount an appropriate, vigorous response, it can and will happen here.


At the center of this challenge is the charter school movement. In their original conception, charter schools were to be innovative public schools, freed from the stifling bureaucracy of school districts, professionally led and directed by their teachers and organically connected to communities they served. Charter schools would be laboratories of educational experimentation, expanding our repertoire of best educational practices. This was the vision put forward by the late UFT and AFT President Al Shanker, when he became one of the very first advocates for charter schools, and it is the vision we relied upon when we started our own UFT Charter School in East New York and partnered with Green Dot to establish a charter school in the South Bronx.


Over the nearly two decades since Minnesota enacted the first state charter law, charter schools have become an increasingly important and permanent fixture of American education. But for too long, teacher unions and progressive educators paid far too little attention to charter schools, incorrectly seeing them as marginal developments. Right wing ideologues moved into the vacuum created by this inattention, and seized a very significant beachhead inside the charter school movement; from this salient, they have pushed a notion of a charter school at direct odds with Shanker's original conception. In their world view, charter schools are a wedge to pursue the privatization of public schools and to create schools in which unions are eliminated. In this vision, charters are private schools, supported with public funds.


In New York and nationally, the leadership of the charter school movement is today dominated by outspoken partisans of this right wing agenda.


The Charter Challenge

Nov. 24, 2009

9:46 pm

by Leo Casey


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