What Do Unions Know About Running Schools?
[The UFT] opened its own charter school in the East New York section of Brooklyn. Randi Weingarten, who led the U.F.T. at the time – and who now leads the American Federation of Teachers – upped the ante by predicting that the school would "show real, quantifiable student achievement and with those results, finally dispel the misguided and simplistic notion that the union contract is an impediment to success."
That's not how things have worked out. The school struggled almost from the start. The State University of New York came close to revoking its charter in 2013 – and probably should have done so. This past year, just 11 percent of its third-through eighth-grade students scored as proficient or better on the state reading tests, compared with 29 percent in the city as a whole.
The union admitted defeat last week, saying that it would close the kindergarten-through-eighth-grade portion of the school because of low test scores. The current U.F. T. president, Michael Mulgrew, blamed state test score requirements for the school's problems.
But the record shows that the union failed the children in this school at just about every level. When the school's charter came up for renewal in 2013, the SUNY panel cited all kinds of problems including: excessive principal turnover; poor instructional skills and teacher coaching; and deficiencies in the way the school handled English language learners and special education students.
What's striking is that the school was managed poorly even after the union staked its reputation on the project. This suggests that the union either did not take the charter project seriously – or that it knows less about running schools than it thinks.